The Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution Friday opposing the implementation of a mandatory summer session and new credit system. The Senate found that proposed changes currently under consideration are not in the best academic interests of the University.
“It’s really rare to have the faculty so unified about anything,” said William Griffith, chair of the Senate’s fiscal planning and budgeting committee, which researched financial implications of a calendar change. “Everybody recognizes the need to generate revenue, but this does not seem to be the way to go about.”
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg proposed changes to the academic calendar last November in an effort to raise additional revenue that could be used to fund academic initiatives. A committee researched Trachtenberg’s proposal and released a report in June. The GW community was asked to respond to the report by Nov. 1.
The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Business and Public Management also submitted individual resolutions about the report. Each school unanimously opposed the summer session and credit system in their reports.
The proposal under consideration would mandate rising juniors to attend a 10-week summer session and take a subsequent semester off from their studies. The proposal also suggested students take four classes, each worth four credits – dubbed the “four-by-four” system – rather than the current credit system, by which students typically take five three-credit classes.
Trachtenberg downplayed the vote’s significance and said he would continue to explore ways to increase GW’s revenue, such as implementing a mandatory winter session.
Trachtenberg would not discuss ways in which his proposal could be amended but said he wants to allay the faculty’s concerns about his proposal.
“This is a gestational event,” he said. “Babies take nine months, so you can’t say in the first week, ‘How’s it going?’ It’s going great.”
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said he was not surprised the faculty rejected the summer session and four-by-four. He said part of the opposition might stem from a reluctance to change.
Although the summer session and the four-by-four do not carry endorsement of the faculty, Lehman said the University must still develop a plan that will generate significant revenue. He said this means raising $10 million or more for a sustained period of time. Money would fund new buildings, faculty pay and programs.
The Senate’s resolution will be submitted to Trachtenberg, and resolutions are typically reviewed at the end of the year in April. However, the Senate can request to have the administration review a resolution sooner, which Senate members said they will probably do.
Lehman said resolutions are “recommendations” from the faculty. The administration modifies resolutions and then accepts or rejects them. But he said most resolutions are not rejected because administrators work with the faculty to write them. The administrators are not obligated to act on the advice of a resolution.
Griffith agreed that reluctance to change might have been a part of the faculty’s opposition to the proposal.
“There’s no doubt there’s a little bit of reluctance to undergo a change that would be so labor intensive upon the faculty,” Griffith said. “But there wasn’t clear-cut proof that there was any gain.”
He said that the plan involves several educational costs. For example, he said the faculty rejected the fact that the University could increase credit hours without increasing classroom time, which the report suggested under the four-by-four.
Faculty also saw drawbacks in recruitment, student experience, faculty teaching in the summer and impact on graduate schools.
“GW is not taking graduate schools into consideration,” law professor Arthur Wilmarth said. “We’re impacted when the University improves and we’re impacted when it goes in the other direction.”
The fiscal planning and budgeting committee looked at three questions in regards to the report – whether the revenue projections it presented were reliable, if the cost projections were reliable and why the University should raise more revenue.
“The revenue projections were all based on extremely optimistic assumptions,” Griffith said. “They were sensibly done, but under the assumption that everything else would stay the same. And that’s unlikely.”
Griffith said he knows revenue must be spent on academic investments, but he questioned whether the University uses its money efficiently. He cited the $50 million spent on Mount Vernon Campus athletic fields.
Lehman said the next step is to research the proposals further, but he emphasized that additional studies will not focus on the implementation of a summer session or four-by-four.
Chair of the Faculty Senate Lilien Robinson said the Senate is awaiting the response of the administration and might ask for a response as soon as possible.
“The whole campus is concerned,” Robinson said. “We’re interested in generating revenue only if it’s going to enhance the academic enterprise and student learning.”