Students, administrators debate mandatory summer

A mandatory summer session was the central focus of a tense meeting between administrators, faculty and student leaders Tuesday night. Charles Karelis, chair of the University’s committee to explore acedemic calendar options, answered student and faculty questions, and discussed pros and cons of the proposed system.

Under a changed calendar, the University would mandate rising juniors to attend a summer session. Students would then be required to take one of their last four semesters off. GW is also considering a switch to a four-by-four credit system, instead of its current five-course, three-credit system.

SA and faculty representatives each gave 10-minute presentations about their perspectives on the potential calendar changes. The rest of the 90-minute meeting consisted of conversation between Karelis and SA and faculty leaders.

“(The summer session) is a huge concern, probably the most important issue of the year,” said Shaina Schallop, chair of the SA’s Subcommittee on the Alternative

Academic Calendar. “Implementing this plan could completely disrupt the natural rhythm of academic life that everyone is accustomed to.”

GW is looking at the mandatory summer session at Dartmouth College as a guide for its potential changes.

“GW is not Dartmouth and GW won’t become Dartmouth if it tries to implement a mandatory summer session,” said Christian Berle, co-chair of the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students.

Administrators have said that the system would be implemented in fall 2005 at the earliest. The term would affect most aspects of student life including housing, participation in student groups, financial aid, Greek-letter life and social lives.

Summer jobs, time with family and studying abroad could also be affected if GW creates a summer term, students said.

“(GW) trying to do something different is not something we can afford,” Berle said during the meeting, adding it could “blow up in our faces.”

Several meeting attendees hate having one eighth of the student body missing each semester.

“How could the University ever get a unified voice, opinion or make another important change if over 1,000 students are missing each semester?” Sen. Asher Corson (U-CCAS) said.

Karelis outlined the financial benefits of the summer session, such as decreasing annual tuition hikes. But he said “no one knows where extra revenue created by a summer session would end up.”

But Schallop said she anticipates logistical costs of keeping the University running all summer would drain any extra revenue.

From the objectives outlined during the meeting, the benefits for the faculty, such as increasing its size and providing flexibility for outside research, outweighed benefits for the students.

But faculty members had criticism for the plan – arguing that smaller departments will be adversely affected by the change.

“It would be difficult for faculty to recruit chairs and maintain organization within departments without the downtime offered in summers off,” chair of the Faculty Senate Lilien Robinson said.

After the meeting, Berle said the administration should consider future faculty and students when implementing the plan.

“By the time this plan is implemented, four years from now, President Trachtenberg will have retired- any mess ups will not affect him and what if the next president doesn’t like the plan?” Berle said.

Trachtenberg’s contract is set to run through 2007 though he has said in previous interviews that he may stay longer if he feels he “still has work to do.”

While, the plan will not affect any current students, Berle and Schallop said they are concerned GW’s reputation and application pool will suffer if GW implements the mandatory summer session.

The University will be accepting comments on the proposal until Nov. 1. The proposal can be accessed online from the GW homepage.

Karelis said he will relay the feedback from the meeting to the administration.

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