Trimester panel forms

University officials have appointed a committee of faculty, administrators and one student to research the merits of a trimester or quarter academic calendar.

Officials said surveys were distributed to School of Media and Public Affairs and Elliott School of International Affairs students this week to gauge opinion for possible expanded course offerings for the summer. Officials said the schools could be “test cases” for implementation for trimesters

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg called for the addition of a 14-week summer session in a December speech, noting that the move would increase GW’s revenue and “efficiency.” The move could potentially allow the University to remain open year-round, keeping academic and residential facilities running at full capacity.

GW would be one of the first schools in the country to use a trimester system, which could have students attend two out of three sessions each year and at least one summer session during their stay. But officials on the committee said a move to a quarter calendar is also being discussed.

“I’ve launched this little boat. I’ll have to wait and see if any bread comes back,” Trachtenberg said, adding that he will give “serious thought” to the committee report, due May 1.

The 17-member committee is set to investigate how a calendar shift would effect staff, finances, students, faculty, academics and general University operations.

“We’re getting organized … and we are at the point where we can begin to break down the preliminary issues associated with a calendar change,” said Charles Karelis, co-chair of the group and a research professor of philosophy.

Karelis, former president of Colgate University, is heading the committee with Walter Brown, an assistant professor of higher education.

Karelis said the group will meet weekly as a general body as well as dividing into four sub-committees dealing with finance, students, faculty and general academics.

The committee has a list of dozens of issues to examine, from the potential effects the change would have on everything from student learning to athletic programs, to Commencement exercises, revenue and financial aid needs.

“There are a million different issues out there and we are looking at the costs and benefits of a move,” Karelis said. He also said it is “extremely premature” to discuss whether a switch is realistic and added that it is the committee’s mission to strictly issue a report without making a recommendation.

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Don Lehman, who appointed the committee, said the University is looking to “get its set of options defined better.”

Lehman noted that he and Trachtenberg determined one student serving on the committee, senior Amanda Mintzer, is “sufficient.”

Trachtenberg said he was skeptical of potential student contributions, noting that students “add occasional imagination.”

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for student and academic support services, said there are many potential benefits to a calendar change.

“I’m open-minded about it … there are a variety of models that can really be additive in terms of accommodating the needs of certain groups of students,” Chernak said.

Chernak cited availability of high-demand courses during the summer and expanded housing options for students as benefits of a calendar change.

-Kate Stepan contributed to this report.

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