Not all change is good

I have kept from hijacking this opinions section with my own ideas for an entire academic year, but I can’t be quiet anymore. I am scared. More than that, I am very, very frustrated. Maybe that frustration has something to do with senior slide, but more than that it has to do with a controversial idea that has been floating around campus.

For those that haven’t heard, Concordia’s administration has been considering a change to the academic calendar. The change, which would be implemented fall 2015, would have students take one class in September, three classes October through December, three classes January through March and one class during April. Because of this structure, the policy has been informally termed the “1-3-3-1” plan.

The plan arises out of a desire — a need — to attract more students to campus. Implementing this kind of unique policy would allow Concordia to market itself as new and innovative, since there are hardly any colleges that have this academic calendar. Another big reason for its consideration is a desire to get more students to study abroad. Instead of expensive May seminars, there would be one-month terms during September and April that would allow people to apply their regular tuition payments to these one-month excursions.

Tragically, the plan suffers from some damning drawbacks.

First, chances are that the first — and only — class that freshmen would take on campus would be inquiry. Now, many people love their orientation groups, but without other classmates to help assimilate into those first scary weeks of college, seeing and meeting only your clubbies and floor mates for that whole first month would be a nightmare. Add to that the probability of not getting along with a roommate, not getting the desired dorm or not liking that inquiry class, and this policy will almost definitely leave a noticeable stain on retention.

Second, there hasn’t been nearly enough research, experimentation or even logical thought that has gone into this policy. What made this particular approach attractive is its rarity, but that also means we have almost no empirical idea of how this will impact Concordia. Attempting the policy at this point would basically be going in blind. Last I checked, this isn’t the ideal strategy for policy implementation. Quite the contrary, it is an inarguably poor strategy.

Third, far too many students get dealt a wretched hand with this policy. Imagine taking organic chemistry in a month. Some students take it during the summer to make the miserable experience go quickly, but they can only do that because there aren’t clubs, sports and meetings demanding their attention. Think about those week-long music tours. With this strategy, you could well miss 25 percent of class time just from going on tour. Recovering academically from that would be near impossible.

The best some students can say is that they don’t think this idea is that bad; that they might be open to it. After all, change is good, right? No. Smart change is good. Misdirected and forced change is foolish. Students and faculty are not in such an uproar for no reason. It would make their lives a lot harder, and they know that the chances of it helping the college are speculative and minimal. End this foolishness now, and then we can start thinking about more strategic and intelligent changes the college could make.


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