Task force recommends 4×4 plan

Following a year of deliberations, a task force investigating the four-by-four system voted to recommend the plan at its final meeting May 5.

The task force, composed of administrators, faculty and students, ratified the plan in a 13-8 vote. In a four-by-four system, students take four classes a semester worth four credits each, opposed to the five-course three-credit system now in place.

The task force will begin to draft a report of its findings following University Commencement on May 21. It will be finished by the end of the summer and will then be submitted to the Faculty Senate and to each of the schools.

If both the faculty and administration support the adoption of four-by-four, the transition to the new credit system would take two to three years.

“I think that even if the faculty and the administration do not approve the conversion to a four-by-four system, there has been a great message that the academics at GW need to be reorganized and revamped,” wrote sophomore Maggie Beckham, one of the three student task force members, in an e-mail last week.

In April, the four Faculty Senate representatives to the task force issued a report that said while the four-by-four system would be profitable for the University, it would not improve academics. The report questioned the correlation between a four-by-four model and the task force’s goals of increased student engagement and academic challenge.

Representatives from the Faculty Senate and the faculty members of the task force could not be reached for comment.

A four-by-four system has been proposed twice before, in 1992 and 2003, and was rejected both times by the faculty.

Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said he is “optimistic” about the willingness of the faculty to work with the project.

The plan recommended by the task force addresses faculty concerns about the relationship between the four-by-four and academic improvement.

It outlines how, under a four-by-four system, resources will be reallocated to faculty incentives and academic programs. Lehman said this will allow the schools to have more flexibility, reduce the individual schools’ reliance on part-time professors and allow for optimal class size. The report also calls for changes to the curriculum.

“Though four-by-four makes sense coupled with curricular change, it would be a useless and expensive nuisance without such change,” the task force’s report says.

The scenario calls for integrating internships into the curriculum and a shift in the culture of the school to one that is more academically centered.

The task force’s goal statement, which was also accepted at the meeting by a 20-1 margin, reflects the objective of a cultural shift at GW.

“GW intends to increase student engagement and learning through academic challenge and a rigorous intellectual environment that permeates all areas of student life,” the report said. “This goal can only be realized through a fundamental cultural change that has its foundation in committed faculty members and curricula that challenge all students in all courses.”

Lehman said he hopes to ease faculty concern about the system’s relationship to the goal of academic improvement by speaking with faculty about their concerns in the fall.

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