Committee nixes trimesters

While University officials have ruled out switching to a trimester system anytime soon, members of a committee studying different academic calendars said GW may consider adding a required summer session.

Committee chairmen Charles Karelis and Walter Brown released a statement in last week’s By George, revealing the committee’s initial findings to abandon a trimester system and focus on developing GW’s summer program.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg set up the task force last semester to evaluate the potential merits of a trimester system or other alternate academic calendars to make the University more financially efficient.

Instead of a true trimester calendar, which consists of three 14-week periods, committee members said two 14-week sessions plus a 10-week summer session seems more feasible. The system is not a traditional trimester because it does not consist of three equal periods.

“I don’t think the label matters. It’s a 14-14-10-(week) system,” Karelis said.

The original proposal mandated students to attend two out of three semesters throughout the year. Students would choose two sessions from fall, spring or summer options.

The committee’s goal was to explore the effect trimesters would have on student life, academics and tuition costs.

Karelis stressed that “this is very much a work in progress.”

“There’s much research to be done,” he said, explaining the committee is not making recommendations to the administration, but facilitating discussion and completing research.

Committee members will present their findings to Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman May 1.

Lehman, Trachtenberg and other senior administrators will evaluate the report over the summer and decide if a new system will benefit GW.

However, neither Trachtenberg nor Karelis ruled out the possibility of bringing a trimester system back to the floor for discussion.

“Those ideas could come back,” he said. “A true trimester is always a possibility, but (it is not) under active consideration.”

The 14-14-10-week calendar is under serious consideration because it meets this criteria, Karelis said.

Trachenberg said the system could abate tuition increases by more efficiently using University resources such as classrooms, labs and faculty.

The committee is investigating whether to require students to take a summer session during their time at GW. Dartmouth College requires students to take a summer session between their sophomore and junior years, according to the task force’s statement.

A mandatory summer session could prevent students studying abroad or working internships from falling behind in credits. The committee is also exploring ideas to make the summer stay more attractive, such as adding special programs that would segue students into a major field and enhance student-faculty research opportunities.

GW summer classes currently include two six-week sessions, with most students completing only one or two courses during each period. The proposed 10-week session would allow students to take a full course load of 12 or 15 credits, Lehman said.

Lehman said committee members are evaluating new academic options that can be accommodated by a 14-14-10 calendar.

One option would call for a switch to a “four-by-four” credit system, meaning instead of taking the standard five courses at three credits each, students would register for four four-credit classes.

Several schools use the four-by-four system, including New York, Boston and Tufts universities.

Lehman said the four-by-four system would allow students to focus more heavily on each individual course while still earning the 120 credits needed to graduate.

A subcommittee of the task force, chaired by Johnnie Osborne, assistant vice president and chief financial officer for Student and Academic Support Services, will consider student issues outside of academic life and hear input from current students.

While only one student, senior Amanda Mintzer, was initially placed on the committee, Trachtenberg appointed Student Association President Phil Robinson as a non-voting member of the group in February after the SA passed a resolution for more student input.

Both Robinson and Mintzer said student concerns were properly represented in discussion. Robinson also mentioned that at this point it would be difficult to put more students on the committee due to the nature of the discussion.

“We’re always well received,” Mintzer said. “We are definitely an integral part of the committee.”

Robinson said he is working with Mintzer to hold a town hall meeting at which students can address Trachtenberg and members of the committee.

“(The town hall meeting) will let students kind of get out and voice their concerns,” Robinson said. “A dialogue interaction will be helpful for the process.”

-Rachel Gould contributed to this report.

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