On Wednesday, the Faculty Senate ignored substantial student opposition and passed changes to the academic calendar in the name of mental health. We are astounded that the Faculty Senate would not only move forward with this proposal without formalized student input, but also disregard the voices of more than 1,000 students who had expressed their opposition before the vote. We urge President David Skorton and Provost Kent Fuchs to reject the resolution and urge the revision of the calendar to make it conform to the needs of students, not just the needs of the faculty.
While we question whether the new calendar would ultimately improve mental health, the most absurd part of the Faculty Senate’s decision is that it went firmly against the vocal opposition of so many students. The two undergraduates on the calendar committee, which developed the proposal before it came to yesterday’s vote, did not support the calendar. The entire Student Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against it. The incoming president of Cornell Minds Matter, an organization that helps students deal with stress, has spoken out against the decision. As of Thursday afternoon, an online petition opposing the calendar changes has gathered over 1,600 signatures.
If the Faculty Senate wanted to vote as it did, its members should have at least sent out a formal survey to students to gauge their preferences on the matter. However, neither the calendar committee nor the Faculty Senate worked to gather any sort of input beyond consulting with the two undergraduate students of the calendar committee. We find it deplorable that the opinions of a small group of faculty, who would not be the ones suffering the mental health consequences of taking final exams in a condensed period, were able to rise over the opinions of so many students.
The calendar, as the faculty senate has approved it, would, in our opinion, seriously compromise mental health and negatively change the character of life at Cornell. While the calendar would add breaks in the spring and fall semesters that would have positive effects on mental health, these breaks are outweighed by the significantly shortened exam and study periods that come at the end of the year. Specifically, in the spring semester, the new calendar will condense the exam study period from seven days to four and exam week from 13 days to eight; shorten Senior Week from seven days to four; and add two days off during President’s Week in February.
While we have serious concerns about the negative impacts on mental health, the main problem that we have with the current proposal is that students were not consulted to the extent that they should have been. This revision of the calendar is the first major revision since 1984. If this is going to be the new calendar for the next three decades, Skorton and Fuchs should allow more time for the students to be heard.