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Faculty debates calendar switch

By Shane Nelson

Feb. 10, 2003 9:00 p.m.

Faculty concern about a possible calendar switch from quarters
to semesters permeated the air at a campuswide town hall meeting

The meeting was intended to clarify issues raised in a report
released by the Joint Academic Senate/Administrative Committee to
Study the Academic Calendar in November and then facilitate
discussion among students, staff and faculty in attendance.

There were about 50 attendees at the afternoon meeting, less
than a handful of them being students.

Chancellor Albert Carnesale explained the most important factor
affecting his final decision ““ to be made at the end of
spring quarter ““ is the impact a switch would have on student

“It’s not about administrative costs,”
Carnesale said adding that while there definitely will be
“very real” transition costs, they are not a
determining factor for the switch.

Carnesale and committee Co-chairman Ray Knapp told the audience
to lessen its concerns about operational and transitional costs,
which he said would be short-term. The chancellor said he wants
campus discussion to focus on long-term curricular issues only,
namely on which system more adequately will provide both
“depth” and “breadth” in education.

While students must learn how to get to the core of an issue,
they must also understand there are many ways to approach it,
Carnesale said.

The majority of attendees expressed concern about having to
arrive at a solution to the calendar question when the report
relies heavily on anecdotal ““ rather than scientific ““

Knapp explained there simply wasn’t strong evidence either
way. Most studies are descriptive in nature, based on
people’s subjective opinions and results of the switches at
UC Berkeley and the University of Minnesota, he added.

The report’s dependence on subjective data could be used
as an argument for either side, Carnesale argued. He added that he
may concur with the senate’s minority view if he deems there
is enough convincing evidence to do so.

“It bothers me we have to give him reasons … I think he
already knows (what he’ll decide),” said philosophy
Professor David Kaplan, who was at UCLA when it switched from
semesters to quarters in 1966.

“I would like to say he is going to make a decision based
on numbers, not subjective opinion,” he continued.

But Knapp emphasized the value of campus discussion is just as
important as a faculty vote in the chancellor’s decision.

Many other faculty seemed to be confused by the vague
explanations of how a switch would affect professor teaching work

If a conversion to semesters would make teaching loads larger,
many said they wouldn’t vote for a switch and vice-versa; but
Knapp and Committee Co-chairwoman Judith Smith offered no concrete
conclusions on what would happen in that situation.

Smith explained it was unlikely workload would change; there
would just be different methods for evaluation since each course
would last five weeks longer but held less frequently each

Academic Senate Chairman Duncan Linsey asked department chairs
to hold departmental discussions until March, then to submit
reports on how a switch would affect their respective

The workload issue is one example of why these departmental
reports are so important, Smith said, because each department will
be affected differently.

Skeptical faculty dominated much of the question and answer
session, although a minority expressed their support for a quarter

The town hall meeting was intended for the entire campus, but
there were only a few students in attendance.

David Dahle, Undergraduate Students Association Council
president, said he thought the meeting was a good opportunity for
faculty to voice some of their opinions.

A decision has to balance a desire for the diversity of course
offerings in the quarter system and the additional time students
have for extracurricular activities in the semester system, Dahle

Currently, he said he is leaning toward the semester

Representatives from UC Berkeley and the University of Minnesota
will be at the next town hall meeting scheduled for Wednesday,
April 2, a week after departments submit their formal opinions.

The Joint Academic Senate / Administrative Committee to Study
the Academic Calendar report on a switch from a quarter to a
semester system can be found at

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Shane Nelson
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