The Joint Committee of Faculty and Students is a group of 14 students, eight members of the faculty and nine members of the University administration. As a study group, we have been reviewing the proposed alternative academic calendar. Our research, drawn from written reports and meetings with different members of the administration, has helped us in developing an understanding of this very important issue.
As many of you know, the proposal suggests a mandatory summer session for rising juniors. This plan would greatly increase the revenue available to the administration to pay for various academic endeavors, as well as student financial aid. A mandatory summer session would fully utilize all of the University’s facilities year-round.
However, with the potential benefits of such a change, it is worthwhile to address the possible drawbacks as well. Many students use their summers to gain internships in and out of Washington, travel abroad or engage in academic programs at other universities. In addition, many students work in family businesses or work to pay off the high cost of GW tuition. Lastly, the program directly impacts academic programs, such as some majors in the Elliott School of International Affairs, which require students to study abroad. It is important to know that the University will tell students which semester they will be taking off, and it will not entirely be the student’s choice. In addition, students will be unable to live on campus during their off semester, to get credit at another institution or to get credit for an internship.
The other option is a 4-by-4 system, by which students would take four four-credit classes over the course of a semester, lessening the number of classes required to graduate. Such a change allows students to focus greater attention on fewer classes, enabling them to pursue outside employment and relevant internships and explore D.C. With fewer classes to attend and teach, both students and faculty could explore the course material in greater depth. However, the issue arises that students would be paying the same amount for less face time with the faculty, and that this plan lessens the number of courses a student can take. If the University were to switch to a four-credit-per-class system, the actual time spent in class would remain the same, while the faculty would be expected to increase the workload. This system would produce a 10 percent reduction in the number of courses offered, though it would allow specializations in academic fields.
With any of these proposed alternatives to the academic calendar comes a variety of issues that will affect both the faculty and student life at GW. The impact on student life is of great concern not only to the students on the Joint Committee, but to many faculty and administrators who wish to see students having the best experience at GW. It is important to examine how student organizations will function with up to and over 3,000 students on campus during the summer. Without major changes in funding, organizations such as the Program Board, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Association and WRGW will not be able to function. The implications of keeping service standardized year-round, from J Street venues to Student Judicial Services proceedings, will be quite expensive.
It is also very important to address the issue from an academic viewpoint. Many faculty members have raised issues associated with both alternatives to the calendar, such as operating small departments and giving professors ample time to do research. It is particularly important to reiterate that class offerings will drop by ten percent under a 4-by-4 system, and even though classes will increase in credits, class time will remain the same.
As representatives of the student body, the students on the JCFS value your comments on what will be the most important issue to face GW this year. Please feel free to come to the subcommittee’s weekly meetings, which are held at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays in the Marvin Center.
-Shaina Schallop, a junior, is the Chair of the
Subcommittee on the Alternative Academic Calendar
and Christian Berle, a senior, is the Co-Chair of
The Joint Committee of Faculty and Students.