Calendar change gains momentum

With signals continuing to point toward the possibility of a change in GW’s academic calendar, university administrators, faculty and students are voicing concerns about a calendar proposal that came out this summer.

GW administrators are currently debating a calendar that would include a mandatory, 10-week summer session for all rising juniors and a credit system where students take four, four-credit courses each semester. Some members of the GW community said they are concerned that such a plan could not easily be phased in, and wonder if mandatory summer school is a marketable idea.

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said the University would have to find the “optimal” way to transition to a new academic system while causing “minimum interruption to the educational process.”

“Faculty would have to spend a great deal of time rethinking their curriculum and its requirements,” Lehman said. “That would take a lot of time and deliberation.”

Lehman is in the early stages of forming an “implementation committee” to resolve problems dealing with transitioning to a new academic calendar. The committee would also assess how changes would be phased into GW’s calendar structure.

GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the formation of the committee does not mean GW is definitely switching to a new system, although he wrote an editorial in the Washington Post two weeks ago supporting the idea of a 14-14-10 calendar.

He called the new calendar an “interesting” idea, but one that needs to be studied.

Lehman said the implementation committee will be co-chaired by a faculty member, and most likely chosen by the Faculty Senate. It will consist of faculty and key administrators, and have graduate and undergraduate student representation.

An initial committee, formed last spring, researched the pros and cons of several versions of the new academic calendar proposal. The final report was posted on the GW Web site in June, and it includes a link to e-mail comments. Responses will be accepted until Nov. 1. The implementation committee will not act until mid-November, after the GW community’s feedback can be considered.

“The President and senior staff will review the November 1 information that comes in,” Lehman said. “On the basis of that input, we will then present a charge to the implementation committee.”

Lehman added he has not formed the committee yet, and he would not speculate if either a mandatory summer or four-credit system will be implemented.

“If we are going to move forward, we want to be prepared,” he said.

The Student Association will appoint two undergraduate and two graduate students to work on the implementation committee. SA President Kris Hart said the SA is getting further involved and will be surveying GW students and holding town hall meetings with Trachtenberg to educate the student body. The first is scheduled for Sept. 17.

The SA is also beginning an effort to survey high school students about the summer option. Hart said he will distribute questionnaires through guidance counselors at market basket high schools.

“The point is not to really get a feeling if the (high school) students would be outrageously against it or if they would agree, but to see if it’s marketable. Will people pick up on it and buy it?” Hart said.

The SA will take a position on the issue by Nov. 1, when it uses the information it gathers through town hall meetings and the surveys to present a statement to administrators.

The Faculty Senate will prepare a statement for Nov. 1 ommittee on Educational Policy, headed by Professor Paul Duff, will assess the initial report and create a response to bring before the rest of the Senate.

Duff said “there is a great deal of concern” among many members of the faculty. Issues include how small departments will staff courses, whether students can graduate on time and how to condense courses normally taught for 14 weeks into a 10-week summer schedule.

“I don’t think anyone’s pretending there’s an academic argument,” English professor Judith Plotz said. “It’s a financial argument.”

But faculty see the opportunity to improve academic life at GW. Both Duff and Plotz said the four-credit system has the potential to be very positive for students.

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