SJT addresses mandatory summer

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he wished turnout for the Student Association town hall meeting regarding a change in GW’s academic calendar was “more robust.”

The 70 students who attended the meeting Wednesday evening questioned Trachtenberg for about 40 minutes about how a mandatory summer session would affect student life and academic affairs.

The University is currently considering mandating a summer session for rising juniors and instituting a four-class, four-credit academic schedule.

The Study Group on an Alternative Academic Calendar, made up of faculty members, professors and students, released a 100-plus-page report this summer presenting the pros and cons of the new system proposals.

GW is accepting student, faculty and staff feedback on the proposal until Nov. 1, when a new committee will review the feasibility of a new system.

Several students inquired about the affects of a new calendar on student life, double majoring and the breadth of available electives.

One student expressed concern that students will be unable to take classes during one semester following the mandatory summer session.

Trachtenberg replied that the period would be a perfect time to pursue internships.

Trachtenberg also strongly advised students with questions to read the report to get more information.

“If you read the report you’ll know as much as I do,” Trachtenberg said.

“Students don’t understand the implications (of the proposed changes,” said freshman Justin Neidig after the meeting. “They don’t understand that these things are really happening, that they will really affect us.”

Trachtenberg gave a brief history of alternative calendars at GW, citing examples of summer sessions in the 1940s and 1960s and mentioning successful nontraditional calendars implemented at other well-respected universities such as Tufts, Dartmouth and the University of Chicago.

“I do not stake my life on the proposed new calendar, but I do stake my life on the flexibility and innovation of this university,” Trachtenberg said. “There’s a new world out there. This institution needs to be prepared for the 21st century.”

SA President Kris Hart said the SA is working with the administration and Faculty Senate to form a second committee on the feasibility of all proposed calendar changes. The committee will be headed by Faculty Senate Chair Lilien Robinson and will include two undergraduate and two graduate students, who have yet to be selected.

The forum addressed other issues besides alternative calendar options, including Hurricane Isabel, faculty ideological diversity and the new freshman writing program, University Writing 20.

Vice President of the Black Student Union Lauren Wilson inquired about GW’s efforts to recruit minorities.

“GW is one of the most accommodating schools for minorities in the country, according to Black Enterprise Magazine, and we have recently taken out full-page ads in several major newspapers, including The Washington Post, recounting the success of black cheerleader Will Alexander,” Trachtenberg said.

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