1-3-3-1: No respect

For those that may not have been at the open forum last Wednesday to discuss the controversial change to the academic calendar, I figured it would be helpful to have a recap. There were more than 200 students in attendance, each one seemingly armed with a question in hand. Unfortunately, virtually every one of those questions went unanswered.

Let’s start from the beginning. The open forum began with President Craft and Dean Eliason each giving a roughly ten-minute presentation that went over what 1-3-3-1 is and why it is being considered. Dr. Craft explained that the academic calendar is a means rather than an end and that the ultimate goal is a focus on experiential learning. They then opened the floor for questions, and the floodgates were lifted.

The first question set the stage for the remainder of the evening. One student stood up and said that most people are curious about the logistics of how this would work out. The response to this question, and most questions afterward, followed a specific structure. President Craft and Dean Eliason shared the question, each offering a roughly ten-minute response.

Note that I say response, not answer. The two administrators explained that they were not quite sure yet how the logistics of the proposal would work out, that they were more prepared to answer questions about the idea alone. That same student had the opportunity to ask another question later on in the evening, and reiterated his question in another way. He explained that we still know so little about the proposal, and compared deciding on this idea to voting on a presidential candidate without knowing the platform.

Dean Eliason responded, quite confidently, that they have a platform. Crucially, however, he failed both at that moment and for the rest of the evening to adequately explain what exactly that platform entails.

As the night went on, it became clear from all the questions raised that the biggest concern on students’ minds had to do with the logistics of this idea, not the idea itself. Now, I would not expect President Craft to be able to say with absolute confidence what an individual student’s schedule will look like. However, the failure to provide decent answers to general questions surrounding things such as music ensembles or Offutt’s three-credit structure implied that this proposal has not exactly been thoroughly thought out.

As time went on, students got restless. I will go as far to say that we started to show obvious signs of disrespect. Now, under normal circumstances, I would say students should show more professionalism and self-control. However, we were not the only ones being disrespectful in that room. Question after question was fielded by two unduly long replies that supplied an equal amount of disappointment.

Moreover, in their responses to some questions, President Craft and Dean Eliason seemed to be going on long tangents that were irrelevant to the original question. If we had more than an hour to ask questions, that might not have been so bad. But as the end of the forum approached, it was obvious that there were still several hands in the air waiting to ask questions, and the two people at the front of the room appeared not just to dodge the questions at hand but to make their replies long enough that they would have to answer fewer questions. To me, this was disrespectful to the students that had taken the time to come express their concerns and get some answers.

It was not as if most of the questions raised were completely new. These conversations have been going on with the faculty for some time now, and I have trouble imagining that the faculty had not already brought some of our concerns to the administration’s attention. If that’s true, then what we witnessed was a lack of preparation. For a proposal that will be going to a vote so soon, such little knowledge of the logistical details is more than a little concerning. We students may have been a bit disrespectful at the open forum, but it is not unfair to ask that we be granted the respect of knowing more about the supposed platform of something that will be voted on so soon.


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