As the Calendar Committee prepares to present its proposed changes to the academic calendar to the Faculty Senate, the Student Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Thursday decrying both the changes and the lack of student input in the discussion leading up to the recommendations.
Thursday’s resolution slammed the committee’s proposal on the basis that it did not adequately take into account student opinion.
“[This resolution] shows our displeasure with the way the Calendar Committee is moving,” said Geoffrey Block ’14, at-large representative for the S.A. “We felt they hadn’t done a good job at finding student input.”
Overriding the disapproval of its undergraduate members –– Block and S.A. President Natalie Raps ’12 –– the Calendar Committee recently passed a number of changes that it will present to the Faculty Senate for approval on May 9.
These changes include the addition of two vacation days in February; condensing exam study period from seven days to four and exam week from eight days to six; shortening Senior Week from seven days to three; and changing the Wednesday before Thanksgiving from a half day to a full day off. Slope Day will also moved from Friday to Wednesday.
Both Block and Raps said their priority as committee members was to focus on student mental health.
“What [the calendar changes] does is shorten exam period, study period, [and] Senior Week, in order to get two days in February,” Block said. “I didn’t think that was a good net benefit for students or mental health.”
S.A. Vice President Adam Gitlin '13 said he hopes to form a “grassroots campaign” in which members of the S.A. and other student groups convene at the Faculty Senate meeting in May to protest the changes.
Block added that he did not think the proposal was likely to pass in the Faculty Senate.
“There were a lot of professors who didn’t understand the changes,” he said. “I’d be surprised if there [was] a lot of support in the Faculty Senate for this.”
Given the rarity of alterations to the academic calendar –– which has not been changed since 1984 –– Raps emphasized the need to take time to arrive at a solution that would most benefit students.
“There’s no saying that this will not be brought up again for another 30 years,” she said. “This is our one chance to have our voice heard.”
S.A. at-large representative John Mueller '13 said next year’s S.A. will continue the work started by Raps and Block.
“I did want to point out that next year’s [S.A.] executive board will fully be supporting our efforts to improve mental health,” he said. “It is very important to us.”
Both Raps and Block emphasized the need to improve dialogue on the topic among both students and administrators.
“I don’t think that [Raps] and I want to end the conversation on the calendar right now,” Block said. “I think we can still have this discussion.”
Also proposed at the meeting was a resolution created in response to the recent restructuring of the University Diversity Council and the subsequent announcement of new diversity initiatives by President Skorton on Feb. 16.
The initiative, titled “Towards New Destinations,” creates four areas of focus –– composition, engagement, inclusion and achievement –– and allows individual colleges to prioritize these areas based on their individual needs. College deans and vice presidents are responsible for choosing five diversity initiatives specific to their departments’ needs and taking action to meet these goals.
The S.A. resolution –– spearheaded by Nate Treffeisen ’12, S.A. vice president for outreach; Stephen Breedon ’14, S.A. hotel representative; and Roneal Desai ’13, S.A. minority at-large representative –– outlined a number of what they perceived as shortcomings of the plan, including its lack of student representation.
Desai said the reduction of the UDC’s membership from 25 to five representatives eliminated the group’s student voices –– perspectives he considers “absolutely necessary.”
“My rationale is very strongly pushing for a student representative on the [UDC],” he said. “At the end of the day … having a student who’s on the S.A. takes it one step further … You need an actual student there to delineate what’s important and what’s not.”
However, Renee Alexander ’74, associate dean of students and director of intercultural programs, who is a member of the UDC, said that student input is a priority for the committee as it moves forward.
“We’ve heard from administrators and students who feel their words aren’t imprinted on this document. It’s not perfect,” Alexander said. “There’s a lot of room for you to create your own bullet points on this diversity initiative.”
The resolution also pushed for increasing the number of underrepresented minorities on campus, as well as improving their academic and extracurricular experiences on campus.
Block, however, said that the resolution should not solely direct its focus of “underrepresented minorities.”
“We can’t forget about minority students that don’t necessarily technically qualify under underrepresented status,” he said. “Asians, for example, might be underrepresented” in the strength of their voice on University issues, even though “they’re over-represented in numbers.”
Additionally, the resolution criticized the vague language of Skorton’s initiative.
“[The UDC] needs to define what they mean by ‘diversity’ and ‘identity.’ It’s currently … a blank slate,” Treffeisen said. “To make this diversity plan successful, it needs to be defined to ensure that groups are not being left out and the diversity of protected classes are being considered and prioritized equally.”
During the meeting, the S.A. made amendments to the resolution that they said addressed the needs of both LGBTQ and undocumented students –– groups the University’s original initiative does not specifically reference.
However, in part due to these alterations, members of the S.A. balked at passing the resolution, saying they needed more time to consider its points.
“I can’t support it as it’s changed so much,” said Peter Scelfo ’15, a freshman representative for the S.A. “In order to properly make this decision, we need another week.”
The S.A. decided to postpone the vote on the resolution to its meeting next Thursday.
Treffeisen said he hopes to use the additional time to garner additional feedback from S.A. members, students and student groups affected by the initiative.
“It’s good to have as much input as possible in terms of student politics,” he said.