Column: Alternative calendar still unclear

The proposed calendar changes developed by the Alternative Academic Calendar Study Group on June 3, 2003, have produced an explosion of debate and discussion regarding the future of our institution. In evaluating the progress that has been made thus far, researching the potential benefits and obstacles, we have come to the conclusion that only more information and discussion can clear up the uncertainty of the proposal. Trying to reach such a conclusion without having sufficient information impedes our creativity and limits our potential.

One group lined up against the changes early on and found information to back its position. A second group lined up in support of the proposal early on and it, too, has found the information to support its position. Though the Student Association has been listening intently to all arguments and executing its own objective studies, the resulting salvos of facts and figures have done little to elucidate the best future for the University.

Several benefits could be born from these proposals. With the creation of a trimester system, GW could increase its student population while simultaneously lowering the number of students living on campus at a given time. By definition, therefore, the University would increase its resource portfolio, which could directly lead to investments in classrooms, faculty and student services. A four-by-four system would allow for more in-depth learning of a given subject, thereby strengthening a student’s grasp in his chosen field.

However, several uncertainties have not yet been satisfactorily addressed. Prospective students may have worries regarding the possibility of attending classes in the summer, while a four-by-four system could seriously limit the popular option of pursuing a double major. One essential aspect of our institution has barely been addressed at all – the impact such changes would have on student life. The effects on student organizations, Greek-letter life and athletics have not been addressed to the extent that they should.

We agree that these questions need to be answered but also understand that the next step of this process is to do just that, to see if we can predict and iron out the wrinkles so that the positives would outweigh the negatives of this change. By confronting these questions, not as a barrier, but as a problem to be solved, we are fully exploring our potential as a University. This is the attitude we hope will carry the day in the next several months of discussion. It is important to consider that the November 1 deadline set by the Office of the University President was not designed to constitute an end to this debate; rather, it was designed as a first step to gauge initial reaction to the Study Group’s report.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was correct in his initial charge to the study group – we need to investigate to find out if there is a better way to run the university. What is required now is more research; research that is not tailored to support any position or purpose, but that fosters academic and objective insight into the best future for GW.

The SA looks forward to the opportunity to work with the student body and the administration to develop these questions more thoroughly, to explore other options and to continue our search for answers. President Trachtenberg asked for feedback at this time, and so we offer many of our questions and thoughts in our report.

-The writer is the president of the GW Student Association.

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