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Faculty Suggest Schedule Change at Student Senate

Jules Struck ‘19, News Editor

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Two faculty members presented a preliminary outline of a school-wide schedule change at the public Tuesday, April 4 Student Senate meeting in an effort to reschedule and enhance the effectiveness of current monthly faculty meetings.

Professor of art history Melinda Schlitt and Professor of theater Sherry Harper-McCombs oversaw the “skeletal presentation” as members of the All-College Committee on Academic Program and Standards (APSC) working group created for this issue.

The members of the working group include Schlitt, Harper-McCombs, Associate Professor of mathematics Richard Forrester, Professor of religion Andrea Lieber, Associate Professor of Earth Science Peter Sak and student representative Cole Gordner ’18.

Schlitt and Harper-McCombs presented their preliminary plan with the intent of gaining the “support of the Student Senate in some form, either in writing (as a declaration) or some other manner before taking the proposal to the faculty floor.”

Generally, the proposed changes to the class schedule include creating a two-hour free block on Wednesday afternoons, adding a sixth 50-minute class block during the week, and beginning the first classes at 8 a.m. instead of the current 8:30 a.m.

The changes would be implemented by Spring 2018, at the earliest, according to Schlitt.

The current faculty meetings are held monthly on Tuesdays during common hour, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. If the meeting requires more time, faculty meet the following Thursday in the same block. According to Schlitt, there are “a lot of problems with the current schedule,” including faculty having to leave early for classes, faculty not being able to show up on Thursdays, discouragement from speaking to avoid prolonging the meeting, lack of participation and lack of preparation by faculty.

Student Senate’s Director of Academics and Student Representative of APSC Steven “Chris” Jones said that “This has not been a close… working between APSC and the faculty, it’s just a concern that was brought to APSC from the faculty and… given down to a working group.”

APSC sent out a survey to faculty members, said Schlitt, the results of which are as follows: To whether the faculty meeting time should be kept as currently scheduled, 55% of faculty voted “no,” and 54% voted “yes” to adjusting the current academic schedule to accommodate a two hour meeting, said Schlitt. 175 faculty responded, she said.

The working group then submitted an unofficial proposal to APSC and were tasked with researching possible schedules, said Schlitt, that would accommodate a two-hour block in the week for the faculty meeting. Schlitt and Harper-McCombs assured Student Senate that their discussions with faculty and facilities were thorough, and they had received support from many departments. 

After presenting to Student Senate, the APSC working group’s plan was not voted on, “so technically I can’t say that we’ve decided,” said Savannah Riley ’17, Student Senate president. “It would be up to the next senate meeting if someone were to propose that we make a formal statement.”

After receiving a summary from Student Senate, the working group will confer with APSC, and if no revisions are required, the plan will be proposed at the faculty meeting on May 2 for discussion and revision. To pass into effect, the proposal would require a 2/3 majority vote by faculty in the meeting.

“I think there’s a lot more discussion to be had between the working group and APSC,” said Jones.

Prior to 2012, faculty meetings were held at 7 p.m. on Mondays, with no set end time. This time came with its own host of issues, but Schlitt says that “everyone was much more engaged.” Now, she says, “most of the faculty do not read the reports ahead of meetings and do not participate… that’s a real problem.” 

To this, some Senators voiced concerns: “Anecdotal stuff in the past isn’t enough to prove what you’re saying,” said Deena Kleinstein ’19, sophomore class Senator.

Schlitt described other problems with the current schedule: “It’s very hard to pick up a conversation from Tuesday that’s stopped,” said Schlitt. She described how “There have been times when conversations during a Tuesday meeting seem to have been manipulated to pre-empt or forestall the continuation of that conversation at the Thursday meeting.” 

Student senators raised a number of concerns to Schlitt and Harper-McCombs.

Jones argued that attendance in 8:30 a.m. classes is lower than the average, so “moving the time up might lower enrollment” in those classes. 

Natura Sant Foster ’20, First-year class senator, questioned how event planning would be affected by the change, to which Harper-McCombs responded, “your point is well taken.” Schlitt said that the working group had determined that “our assessment was that there would be more availability for everyone.”

Other students questioned how campus facilities like the Kline, the Waidner-Spahr Library and food facilities would have to accommodate the earlier start time. Schlitt and Harper-McCombs assured that this would not be a significant problem, and that discussions with different departments and facilities had indicated general support for the proposal.

Sara Nash ’19, director of campus life and initiatives, commented that “I think that faculty should have considered a new… model… if the issue is really debate and discussion,” Nash suggested smaller groups sizes instead of a schedule change.

Currently there are no formalized plans to distribute the schedule changes to the entirety of the student body.

The April 5 Student Senate meeting, according to Amanda Allan, Parliamentarian of Student Senate, “was a normal meeting open to all parts of campus.” This means, that any information presented or shared there was and remains information available to the public.

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Faculty Suggest Schedule Change at Student Senate