Trustees to decide on 4-1-4 for Mercyhurst in May

At their February meeting, the Board of Trustees authorized Mercyhurst University President Thomas Gamble, Ph.D., and the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) to consider changing to the 4-1-4 calendar.

If everything goes as planned, the trustees will make an official decision regarding the calendar at their May 5 meeting.

Until then, Vice President for Academic Affairs Phil Belfiore, Ph.D., is collecting information from academic departments. He asked every department as well as graduate programs to complete three tasks.

Belfiore asked departments to create a plan of study on a 14 week-4 week-14 week calendar system (4-1-4). This plan shows the sequence of classes a student would take in a department to graduate within four years.

He then asked departments to explain unique courses they could offer during the four-week January or May term.

At their May meeting, trustees will not determine whether the short term will take place in January or May. If 4-1-4 is approved, this matter would be decided either at the end of this year or the beginning of next.

“I would hope the faculty and students would make the decision because the faculty and students are the ones that would live with it,” Belfiore said.

Departments were also asked to determine if switching to a 4-1-4 system would be fiscally feasible and whether the addition of new faculty would be required.

So far, about 12 departments have responded to Belfiore’s request, and they have all said switching to 4-1-4 is feasible.

Belfiore said that his recommendation to the board will be based on the findings from his study.

“If all the information comes back from faculty, departments and Jane (Kelsey) that this is feasible and we look forward to doing this, we will do it,” he said.

Once the necessary feasibility and fiscal information is collected, Belfiore and Michael Federici, Ph.D., president of the Faculty Senate, will present the findings to the Academic Affairs Committee. This committee will then present the information to the Board of Trustees at their May 5 meeting.

“I’m hoping at that meeting they’ll make a final decision,” Belfiore said.

Federici said the only reason he thinks the decision would be postponed would be if the trustees think more research needs to be conducted.

Even so, much of the necessary information was collected prior to the February board meeting.

Federici polled faculty in January and found that 73-25 were in favor of switching to a 4-1-4 or 4-4-1 calendar.
A study of the number of classrooms on campus has been conducted as well. More classes would be offered at one time under the 4-1-4 calendar, but not all classrooms are occupied now. Therefore, there are enough classrooms available to make the change, Federici said.

As of now, Federici has not come across any major issues or substantial costs that would prevent the change to the 4-1-4 calendar.

Despite no known major issues with the calendar change, there have been rumors among faculty that an administrator at the university is not in favor of 4-1-4, and therefore, the calendar will not be approved.

Federici would not comment, but Belfiore responded to this rumor.

“There may be some administrators who may not prefer this, but I don’t know of any administrators right now who would shoot it down,” he said.

The Board of Trustees approved the new college core at their February meeting. This change will take effect in fall of 2013. If 4-1-4 is approved, the new calendar will begin in 2013 as well.

“Ideally that would be great if we could do them both at the same time,” Belfiore said.

Belfiore said he thinks the board will vote in favor of what the study finds.

Approval will depend on the board knowing the change to a 4-1-4 calendar is “fiscally responsible or fiscally neutral,” he said.

“If we present a report that is positive, I see no reason they would reject it,” Belfiore said.

Federici discussed how much time and effort has been spent on working on a calendar that will meet faculty and student needs.

“I’m confident the college will make an intelligent decision at the end of the day,” he said.