October 15, 2003
Senate raises concerns about calendar option B
The Faculty Senate spent most of its Oct. 14 meeting discussing two
proposals under consideration for the next academic calendar.
Senators raised concerns over the shortened semester of one option (calendar
B), saying it would force course content to be reduced and might give the
public the idea faculty are working less.
"Iowans are under the perception that we're not working now," said senator
Sriram Sundararajan, mechanical engineering.
Calendar B would extend class periods by 5 minutes, shorten the semester to
14 weeks, and increase the summer interval to 16 weeks. It also would
include a two-day class break in October, a four-week winter break and a
10-day, optional mini-semester in early January.
The other option under consideration, calendar A, mirrors the current
academic calendar. It includes 15 weeks of instruction per semester,
50-minute and 75- to 80-minute class periods, a three-week winter break
between fall and spring semesters and a 15-week summer break between spring
and fall semesters.
A day is a day
Senator Greg Palermo, architecture, said adding five minutes to a class
period does not compensate for reducing the semester by a week in calendar
"An exam day is a day," Palermo said, noting students miss class by the day.
"I don't measure class in five minute segments," he said. "I measure it by
Senator Walter Trahanovsky, chemistry, said students taking chemistry
courses "want more time between classes to study. If we cut out a week,
that's less time to study than what we offer them now."
Arne Hallam, head of the task force that developed the calendar proposals
and economics department chair, noted that under calendar B, time slots
available for lab courses would be reduced and classes that meet once a week
would lose one (and perhaps two) full class periods.
Some of the problems with calendar B could be solved, Hallam said, either by
eliminating the two-day October break or reducing it to one day. Another
option would be to reduce the week-long Thanksgiving vacation to two days
and start spring semester on a Tuesday. Several faculty voiced support for a
fall break, saying the Thanksgiving break comes too late in the semester to
do much good.
Another calendar B issue, Hallam said, is the longer school day. Classes
would end at 5:30 p.m. rather than 5 p.m. As a result, athletic practices,
intramurals and club meetings might have to be pushed back. Later classes
also might affect students with evening jobs and parents eager to get home
in time for their children's activities.
The 10-day mini semester between fall and spring semester, provided in
calendar B, prompted several questions among the senators. Some asked why it
could not be longer, since the winter break is a week longer under calendar
Hallam said the intent was to start the mini semester (commonly called
"J-term") after New Year's Day and to have the semester completed before the
Martin Luther King holiday in January.
Hallam also said departments would receive "a significant" portion of the
tuition from courses taught by their faculty. Departments would decide how
to compensate faculty for teaching J-term classes.
Another issue that would need to be addressed, Hallam said, would be where
students would live during J-terms. Some residence halls and facilities
within the Greek system are normally closed over the winter break.
President Gregory Geoffroy has asked for input on the two calendar options
by Nov. 14. The senate will vote on its calendar preference during the Nov.
11 meeting. That meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Hotel at Gateway
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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