March 8, 2012

Students: Do Not Reduce Length of Senior Week

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Students slammed a proposal to shorten Senior Week that was included in a set of recommended changes to the University’s academic calendar.According to Matt Koren ’12, co-chair of the Senior Week Committee, many said they feel short-changed by what he called the “blatantly obvious flaws” in the committee’s suggested alteration of Senior Week.The University’s Calendar Committee, established in 2010 as a coalition of faculty, students and staff to revise the academic calendar and address student mental health, has proposed reducing Senior Week — the period between the end of spring semester exams and commencement devoted to celebrating graduating seniors — from one week to four days.The proposal to condense Senior Week is one of several decisions the calendar committee made to reduce student stress, including shortened exam periods and the addition of four vacation days to the spring semester.If these changes go into effect, the spring exam period will begin later and end later, thereby shortening Senior Week, according to Prof. Jeff Doyle, plant biology, chair of the Calendar Committee.Natalie Raps ’12,  president of the Student Assembly and one of the Calendar Committee’s two student representatives, was a “strong advocate” for maintaining Senior Week, according to Doyle. However, Raps said that  “compromises had to be made” in the interest of student mental health.At the S.A. meeting Thursday, where the calendar committee explained the potential changes, Raps said she believed the changes were “very beneficial.” “I believe that the committee recognized the importance and significance of Senior Week, but had to weigh the overall objective of providing balance to help support positive mental health,” added Jennifer Davis, assistant dean of students for student activities and faculty advisor to the Senior Week committee. However, many students disagreed with the committee’s recommendations, saying they were skeptical of the effects of condensed exam periods and a shortened Senior Week on student mental health.  “I’m not entirely sure how cramming finals into five [fewer] days helps ensure mental health, since it will surely result in more stress and scheduling issues,” Koren said.If passed, seniors would not have exams on the final Monday and Tuesday of spring exam week, thereby creating a “de facto” Senior Week, according to University Registrar Cassie Dembosky.One of the “positives” of Senior Week overlapping with non-seniors’ exam period is that “more undergraduates will stay around,” Raps said. “Normally ,senior week is so isolated. Seniors will be able to share those memories will all of their friends.”However, programming would still be cut, since on-campus events for seniors cannot coincide with other undergraduates’ exams, according to Koren.Koren said that this year’s Senior Week committee has plans to host eight on-campus events — Duff Ball, the Carnival, the Rave, Wine Tasting, Beer Tasting, Comedy Night, Casino Night and a barbeque. If Senior Week is shortened, Koren said, some of these events will be at risk of being cut in the future.“If the Calendar Committee can come up with a way to hold these eight events on campus on Wednesday and Thursday morning, we would love to hear their proposal,” Koren said. In addition, Anisha Chopra ’13, a member of the Senior Week committee and a Student Assembly representative, said that there may be a shortage of student volunteers for activities if the first two days of Senior Week coincide with exams.Many students added that they believe they deserve a full week of programming.“I think Senior Week is so special, and to shorten it is really unfair to seniors,” Sarah Kurland ’14 said.Colleen Burke ’14 compared cutting Senior Week to “taking away Christmas.” Likewise, Mikella Zgliczynska ’14 expressed a fear of being robbed of her senior week experience.“Seniors have worked so hard and have been here so long that would only be fair to have the full week [for programming], instead of just a couple of days,” Lena Mitkey ’12 said. According to Dembosky, the recommendation to shorten Senior Week was also an effort to discourage “high-risk student drinking” during that period.“Seniors see Senior Week as way to responsibly blackout one last time,” Koren said. Shortening Senior Week “will push day drinking into the bars,” he said. Koren said that the Calendar Committee proposals are the result of inadequate communication between the committee, the greater undergraduate population and the Senior Week Committee.Doyle, chair of the Calendar Committee, noted that his committee only makes “informal” efforts to consult with non-committee members. For example, the calendar committee relied solely on Raps and Geoffrey Block ’14, who is also a member of the S.A., to “canvass [their] constituencies and bring feedback to the committee,” Doyle said. “It’s absurd that [neither] of the Senior Week co-chairs were consulted about the recommendation,” Koren ’12 said. In response, Doyle said that that the Calendar Committee “was never approached by any student committee on Senior Week, nor was I personally aware of its existence and our undergraduate representatives did not alert us to their desire to talk with us or suggest contacting them.” Still, Doyle said the calendar committee hopes to build better lines of communication with students before the proposal reaches the Faculty Senate. According to Raps, the S.A. will email the undergraduate population this week to solicit feedback and relay it to the calendar committee before the proposal is submitted to the Faculty Senate for final approval. She said she believes a “very strong reaction from students with good reasoning could change the trajectory of the decision” before it reaches the Faculty Senate for a vote. However, it is unlikely that such feedback will come from the Senior Week committee, which does not see “the need to point out very obvious issues to a committee that really didn’t want [their] input in the first place,” according to Koren. “If need be, we’ll address our concerns with the Faculty Senate,” he said.

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Natalie Raps ’12 as the former president of the Student Assembly. In fact, she will remain in office until the end of the semester.

Original Author: Erin Ellis