Editorial: Winter session could ease money woes

Last year the administration proposed a mandatory summer session for rising juniors that could have generated up to $11 million in perpetual revenue for GW, according to University projections. Although the plan may have had the ability to solve a number of revenue-related issues for the University, it was met with nearly unanimous opposition from a variety of student and faculty groups. Citing collective concerns about impact on students and faculty, these contingents essentially forced the administration’s hand to indefinitely put off the idea of a mandatory summer session. This action, however, did not solve the issues necessitating the initial proposal.

The University administration doomed its plan to failure from the beginning. Not foreseeing significant dissent, officials did not initiate a PR campaign that would attempt to assuage the fears of the student body, faculty and staff. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg himself told The Hatchet that he felt the tactics behind the plan’s implementation were secondary to buying into its overall philosophy. And because students feared the worst, they wrote off the proposal. And after spending thousands of dollars in research and a significant amount of time, the University seemed no closer to solving its long-term need for more money.

In an attempt to formulate a new initiative, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman will be leading a committee focused on providing alternatives to generate more revenue. One idea being circulated is an optional winter session, which would extend winter break and allow students to take one or more classes during that time. Another idea is to increase the number of programs offered in the summer. Either of these ideas would put GW on the road to generating more money, allowing the University to continue upgrading its facilities and embark on the path to becoming a first-tier institution.

One potential solution the administration should take a hard look at is a mandatory winter session requiring students to spend one winter break on campus, or more than one if desired. For such a plan to be feasible, the University would have to extend winter break to seven weeks – similar to the arrangement at the University of Delaware – allowing students to relax for two weeks and then return to take one or two five-week courses. The University could offer general curriculum requirements and other popular classes in an effort to make the winter term an attractive option. The University would probably find significantly less opposition to this plan than was raised against the mandatory summer session. Because the winter does not have the same emotional resonance for students as summer does – and because it is already a significantly shorter break – the administration might find that students are actually receptive to such an arrangement, especially when considering expanded employment opportunities and other advantages a seven-week break could mean.

This page recognizes that, while an attractive option, a mandatory winter session – regardless of whether it is feasible from an administrative standpoint – might not provide the same kind of economic benefit as a mandatory summer session. However, such a program – coupled with an increasingly attractive roster of summer program options – might get students more comfortable with attending school at non-traditional times. If this is the case, the University could find that proposing a mandatory summer session in a few years might not meet the same overwhelming outcry of dissent that it did this year.

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