At Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, professors slammed the Calendar Committee’s latest proposal to revise the academic calendar, saying the changes could prove detrimental to both the quality of students’ academic experiences and their mental health.
The committee proposed to change the last day of classes –– and thus Slope Day –– to a Wednesday instead of a Friday. Study period, Doyle said, would then run from Thursday through Sunday, and exam week would be shortened from 13 days to eight –– a change Geoffrey Block ’14, at-large representative for the S.A., said could have adverse consequences.
“Shortening the number of days available to take exams is clearly not a step designed to reduce student stress,” he said. “The concern [is] that we’re not doing enough to aid student stress. The committee needs to reevaluate.”
The recommended changes also include adding a two-day break between the beginning of the spring semester and spring break, while making no alterations to spring break, Doyle said. These two additional days would likely be added to a weekend three or four weeks into the semester, with no classes on Monday and Tuesday of that week.
Block praised these additional vacation days, calling them “good for mental health.”
However, Prof. Rob Thorne, physics, questioned the necessity of the two-day break, which would likely be in February.
“The break comes far too early,” Thorne said. “After only several weeks of instruction, student stress has not started to mount.”
During February and March, the committee held meetings with a variety of organizations on campus –– including the Student Assembly, the University Assembly, the Employee Assembly, the Faculty Senate and Orientation Week staff –– to solicit their feedback on the Calendar Committee’s suggested changes.
According to committee chair Prof. Jeff Doyle, plant biology, the committee met Tuesday to revise their proposal based on the responses it received.
“What we came up with is in response to all that feedback,” he said.
Still, many faculty members expressed dissatisfaction with the committee’s plans.
Prof. Dick Miller, philosophy, said the latest proposal was “deeply flawed” — particularly due to the addition of long weekends to the calendar, which he said would have a negative impact on introductory courses.
“As I understand it, there is still an increase in the number of short weeks in the proposal,” Miller said. “I think this is very bad … Many introductory courses are taught on the basis of Monday [and] Wednesday lectures [with] Friday discussions. There’s really no time to have an adequate development of a topic … that then makes sense in the discussion section if there is a short week.”
Professors also criticized the proposed shortening of finals week on the basis that it would increase, rather than alleviate, students’ stress levels.
“To say this is a stress-reduction technique strikes me as made up,” said Prof. Jack Freed, chemistry and chemical biology.
Prof. Mike Thompson, materials science and engineering, echoed this sentiment.
“I don’t understand how packing all finals into a continuous sequence reduces stress,” he said. “Have you talked to students about that?”
Additionally, in the revised proposal, Senior Week will still be shortened to four days of formal programming –– an adjustment that Matt Koren ’12, co-chair of the Senior Week Committee, said will be “directly proportional to a cut in [Senior Week] events.”
Koren said the Senior Week committee may “bypass the Calendar Committee as a whole” if its concerns are not taken into consideration. He condemned both the committee’s recommendations and its methodology.
“We feel that there is not enough student representation on the committee, and that the faculty on the committee are not receptive to working with Senior Week representatives,” Koren said. “We plan to go straight to the Faculty Senate.”
However, both Block and S.A. President Natalie Raps ’12 expressed their commitment to maintaining Senior Week.
“I definitely like … having as many Senior Week days … as possible,” Raps said. “I think that is one of the biggest concerns of students.”
According to Jay Lee ’14, S.A. transfer at-large representative, the development of changes to the calendar requires “a more holistic conversation.”
To meet this need, Lee said that he and Dan Kuhr ’13, S.A. Human Ecology representative, created a survey which, among other questions, solicited feedback on the plan’s proposed changes to finals week, Senior Week and spring break.
The survey took into account the responses of 401 participants –– which Lee said were mostly garnered from a Facebook group to which he invited all of his friends — and showed a lack of student support for shortening both finals week and Senior Week.
However, Lee said that the survey should be conducted on a larger scale to more accurately reflect student opinion.
“Although we had diversity in our data, I personally don’t think 401 students is a sufficient size,” he said. “Dan and I are planning to put this survey, or a modified version of it, in the S.A. monthly email so we can get feedback from [the] entire undergraduate student body.”
Though the Faculty Senate is set to vote on the changes at its next meeting in May, Block emphasized that the Senate should take more time to consider additional feedback from both students and faculty.
“The changes have been moving very quick,” he said. “[Raps] and I want to slow down the process to allow for as much feedback as possible to be taken in. More importantly, just as important, we need to have time to get that feedback and to actually use it.”
Raps agreed that garnering feedback will require more time and effort on the committee’s part.
“Overall, I think it’s a process that’s slowly developing,” she said.
Doyle said that, if necessary, the committee is willing to prolong discussions of the changes.
“We would like to wrap this process up with a vote by the end of the semester,” he said. “We’re still taking comments … However, I feel no strain about continuing to discuss this.”
Alexandra Kuczynski-Brown contributed reporting to this article.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Prof. David Delchamps, electrical and computer engineering. In fact, the statement was made by Prof. Jack Freed, chemistry and chemical biology.