Less than two weeks before the Nov. 1 administration feedback deadline, the Student Association hosted a forum Tuesday to debate the University’s proposal for a mandatory summer session and switch to a four-course, four-credit class structure.
Although organizers moved the forum from the Hippodrome to the Jack Morton Auditorium in anticipation of a large crowd, only 50 students and faculty members attended. Attendees raised concerns about the possibility of adding a mandatory summer session for rising juniors and switching over to a four-credit, four-course credit structure.
SA President Kris Hart moderated the panel, made up of five faculty members and two students. Each speaker presented his view for about five minutes against the backdrop of CNN’s “Crossfire” set.
Gerald Kavaur, special assistant to University President Steven Joel Trachtenberg and a member of the committee that studied the alternative calendar, highlighted GW’s potential financial gains if the University implements a mandatory summer session for rising juniors.
“We can’t raise tuition fees anymore,” he said. “In an economy like this it is really tough to get outside sources of revenue.”
GW could add an extra $12 million if a mandatory summer session were instituted, according to a report from the Study Group on an Alternative Academic Calendar. Officials have said all revenue raised would go into academics, including programs and buildings.
Administrators also defended the four-by-four system. Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and developments, said students will get more out of a four-credit, four-course academic plan than the current three-credit, five-course program.
Officials have said the academic rigor of classes would be increased so the courses would be worth four credits.
Economics professor Joseph Cordes said while GW would be able to enroll about 1,000 more students with the proposed calendar change, he is unsure if the University will use the added revenue to maintain the quality of student life and academics for the extra students.
Laura Youens, deputy chair of the music department, and Faculty Senate Chair Lilien Robinson both said they opposed the proposal.
“The general reaction of GW is a strong negative,” Youens said. “One overarching concern is that a lot of matters were not taken into consideration.”
Students can e-mail altcal@gwu .edu until Nov. 1 with suggestions. Administrators are then set to form an implementation committee that will research whether converting to either system is viable.
Freshman Will Donovan, research assistant for the SA, also spoke out against the proposal.
“If this plan was in place when I applied to GW, I would not have come to school here,” he said.
The panel discussion lasted for an hour before audience members could raise questions and concerns.
“A lot of students would be interested in transferring if this plan was implemented,” freshman Kate Rosh said, adding she has been following the issue closely ever since she received literature in the mail this summer about the plan.
“Going to class is only one part of the college experience … students taking a mandatory summer session would miss out on the usual events that go on during the year,” said sophomore Shaina Schallop, chair of the SA subcommittee on the
Senior Christian Berle, co-chair of the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students said he agreed with student concerns.
“The possibility of going to school for five consecutive semesters is not appealing to very many students,” he said.
Juniors might not be able to pick which semester they want off if a mandatory summer is adopted, meaning some students would be attending classes for four consecutive semesters.
Toward the end of the meeting, tension rose between administrators and faculty members about motivation behind the plan.
“The cons of the plan tend to be buried within the report … it depends on how carefully you read it,” Robinson said.
“We need to put the tradeoffs on the table before implementation, not the other way around,” Cordes said.
Students questioned whether or not alternative plans, such as an optional winter and summer sessions could be investigated, instead of the current proposals.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting that a winter term was a possibility.
After the meeting Hart said he was disappointed at the lack of students in attendance but said the meeting emphasized the need for a student voice on the final committee.
This article appeared in the October 23, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.