Students will be required to attend a summer session between their sophomore and junior years if the administration approves a suggestion from a University task force studying different academic calendars.
The task force, the Alternative Academic Calendar Committee, is also researching a switch to a four-by-four system, in which students would take four classes at four credits each instead of the current five-class, three-credit system. The committee is expected to present its findings to the Board of Trustees, which must approve any significant policy changes next month.
In the latest developments in a discussion that began when GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg called for a committee to look into the viability of a trimester system, committee chair Charles Karelis announced Friday the group will no longer consider an optional summer session.
Committee members also said they were heavily leaning toward switching credit hours to a four-by-four system to help alleviate an on-campus classroom shortage (see “University faces classroom crunch,” p. 1).
Senior Amanda Mintzer, one of the two student committee members, noted the four-by-four system will reduce the amount of classroom space needed by 20 percent. She added the committee saw this as an “appropriate time” to look into the change.
“The University is looking into a better way to challenge students,” Mintzer said, noting that four four-credit classes could allow students to gain “a deeper understanding of classes” without significantly increasing class time.
The 17-member committee of faculty, administrators and two students began meeting in January to investigate how a calendar shift would affect staff, finances, students, faculty, academics and general University operations.
Committee members are scheduled to present their findings to Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman May 1. The calendar changes have evolved from a standard trimester, in which students would be required to attend classes during two of three 13-week sessions a year, to a mandatory 10-week summer session for rising juniors in addition to the two traditional 14-week semesters.
Karelis said last week the committee was considering the 10-week summer session to replace the two six-week summer sessions GW currently offers.
Mintzer added the decision for mandatory summer was partially made because few GW students took courses last summer.
In a heated Faculty Senate meeting Friday, professors said they have reservations about the changes and that the University needs to do more research before considering implementation of a mandatory summer session.
“I see many issues (at which) the committee has not had a chance to look,” said Lilien Robinson, chair of the Faculty Senate. “We don’t know enough, and I haven’t seen any data.”
Robinson said she wanted to know how students felt about a compulsory summer, questioning whether it would be a deterrent for prospective applicants.
Mintzer and Student Association President Phil Robinson, the second student on the committee, both said they have yet to hear about the effect an academic calendar change would have on enrollment and recruitment.
Lilien Robinson said she believes academics need to be the University’s priority.
“As somebody who has been teaching for a very long time, my first concerns are the academic concerns,” she said. “(The financial aspect) should not be the driving consideration.”
The Faculty Senate set up a committee to look into the effect of the summer session on faculty and students and will present its own resolution to the Board of Trustees and Trachtenberg by the end of the semester. Robinson said she hopes Trachtenberg will take the faculty’s opinion seriously.
“There is no question that the Faculty Senate voice would be heard,” Robinson said.
Mintzer, the only voting student sitting on the calendar committee, said the committee has evaluated each option carefully, eliminating possibilities they believe are no longer feasible.
The committee’s report will address “what would be most efficient given the circumstances GW is currently under and estimates of future circumstances,” Mintzer said.
“From a business sense and a student sense, I have to vote two different ways,” she said. “But, (as a student), I have to go with representing the student body.”
University officials spent the weekend meeting with officials from universities that have implemented a mandatory summer session, including a vice president from Dartmouth College.
Mintzer said if students are required to attend a summer session, they will not be required to attend all eight semesters of courses.
Phil Robinson said “nothing is set in stone” but that implementation of the mandatory summer session is “realistic.” Mintzer expressed similar sentiments.
She said she is unsure if University officials will implement a mandatory summer session, “but they are definitely looking to change something,” she said.