College considers calendar changes

Discussion of calendar changes has recently become widespread throughout the Mercyhurst College campus.

Debate has been raging over the idea of changing to a 4-1-4 semester system. Although this change is being discussed among faculty and administration, students have been spreading the wrong idea that this calendar change has already been decided on.

Michael Federici, Ph.D., president of the Faculty Senate, discussed two calendar options at a Mercyhurst Student Government (MSG) Senate meeting on Monday, Oct. 10.

The reason for discussing different calendar options is that the Pennsylvania Department of Education discovered that Mercyhurst is out of compliance with its contact hours. These calendar options offer solutions to the class time issue.

Federici said the college has no choice but to come up with a solution to this issue. Even so, “that doesn’t mean we have to change to a calendar different than the term system,” he said.

The options he discussed included keeping class times the same as they are now by adding extra hours of homework for each class in addition to what is normally assigned. The second option he mentioned was a 4-1-4 term calendar.

Federici said there was no support for the first option at the MSG meeting.

The 4-1-4 plan

The 4-1-4 term calendar has two 13-week terms plus a week of finals after each term and one 3 1/2 week term.
The short 3 1/2 week term could take place at the beginning of the school year, in January or in May.

If this calendar option is chosen, the college would pick where the short term would occur. This term would not be a college-wide requirement, but it could be a requirement for certain departments, Federici said.

He said that as of now there is no real consensus of when the term should be. According to Federici, the natural sciences seem to prefer the May term because they could do local field research when it is warm outside. Some students prefer the January term because they would not want to have a six-week Christmas break.

During the longer terms, classes would be shorter than they are now. Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes would be one hour and five minutes, and Tuesday, Thursday classes would last one hour and 35 minutes.

Classes during the short term would be two hours and 40 minutes if taken five days a week. Classes would be three hours each day if taken four days a week.

Under the 4-1-4 term calendar, students would still need to take 10 classes each year. It is up to the students how they choose to do this. Some options include taking 5-1-4, 5-0-5 or 4-2-4.

Federici discussed how this term system would affect flat-rate billing. He said the two long terms would allow a maximum of 18 credits, which is six classes. He is unsure of how the short term would work, but he thinks flat-rate billing would cover three credits, or one class.

Benefits of the plan

He mentioned one benefit of the 4-4-1 calendar is there will be fewer class registration conflicts.

For this year’s winter and spring term, there are only three time slots for student-athletes to take classes on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays because they are not supposed to take classes after 2 p.m. during their season or practice season. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they only have two time slots they can schedule during.

This leaves athletes, who make up a little more than 20 percent of the student population, with five possible time slots. Under the 4-1-4 term system, they would have eight time slots during which they could register classes.

Proposal rumors

Federici dispelled the rumors that a proposal has been approved by the Faculty Senate and that it is on the agenda for Saturday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

As of now, a proposal for the 4-1-4 term calendar has not even been created. The only thing Federici has put together is an idea of the 4-1-4 model showing how it works and how it would be different from the current trimester system. Federici said the idea behind this is for students and faculty to begin discussing calendar changes.

“How could we have put together a proposal in such a short period of time?” Federici asked.

“I don’t feel ready to put a proposal together,” he said.

He said before he puts a proposal together he would need to consult different groups on campus, which would include the president, the provost, athletics, student financial services, housing, security and maintenance.

“I understand that people have very strong feelings about the calendar,” said Federici. “We are simply trying to find a way to put together a proposal that will be tolerable to most people on campus.”

Student response

In order to create the best proposal, Federici is asking students, faculty and administration to email him ideas or to share ideas with their MSG representative.

“All students are represented on MSG,” he said. “They can surely contact their representatives and tell them what they think.”

MSG president Meghan Hess urges students to share their thoughts.

“It would be awesome if every single student could have a vote, so I encourage everyone to leave their personal opinion on the MSG website as soon as possible,” Hess said.

Juniors Joe Reinhard and Jeremy Dickey created a calendar proposal that they presented to MSG on Monday. This proposal adjusts the start and end dates of school in order to keep the current trimester system and current class times.

Reinhard and Dickey submitted their academic calendar proposal Tuesday to Federici.

Reinhard, an intelligence studies major, explained what he likes about trimesters.

“I think for one it fits the major really well,” he said. “I’m a double minor and intel major, and on semesters I wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said.

As a junior, Reinhard worries about students being able to graduate on time if the term system changed.
Dickey explained his dissatisfaction with the way the college is handling the proposal.

He said that last time when President Thomas Gamble, Ph.D., proposed changing the trimester system, he marketed them as semesters. This plan was not adopted. Now, the same plan is being proposed as 4-1-4 semesters.

Federici explained that Gamble proposed the 4-1-4 calendar in 2007. The Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees agreed that the semester calendar was the best option for Mercyhurst, but at the time it was too premature to make the change. It was too soon because the core curriculum need to be changed and the college needed to institute flat-rate billing, according to Federici.

The college is now on flat-rate billing, and the revision of the core classes is almost done.
Reinhard thinks it is still too soon to make calendar changes.

“We had this dropped on us a week ago,” said Reinhard. “That isn’t enough time for us, let alone the departments.”

Federici said it is very likely that a major calendar change would not occur until the 2013-14 academic year.

“In all likelihood, we are just going to do next year what we are doing in the winter and spring term,” Federici said. “If we make a significant change, it would be for the following year.”

Federici said he has not received a lot of feedback from faculty yet regarding the 4-1-4 plan, but he expects to hear more response at the Faculty Forum on Monday.

“I have asked the different academic departments on campus to discuss the feasibility of changing the calendar,” he said.

Process to change calendar

Federici discussed the process involved in changing the calendar. He said a proposal would have to be created and considered by the faculty, students, administration and the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees.

Once these groups have their say, the College Council could vote and debate on it. Even so, the administration could make its decision without the vote of College Council because this idea went through this process several years ago.

Federici said it is ultimately up to administration to make the final decision on the calendar.

“If we pass a proposal through the Senate, all we are doing is making a recommendation to the administration,” Federici said.

He said that for the decision to be approved, the Board of Trustees most likely does not need to vote on the decision. However, the board will be informed and consulted.

“It may be wise to have them approve it, even if you’re not required to have them approve it,” Federici said.