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From 1-3-3-1 to 4-3-1: A new academic calendar proposal

On Friday, the Faculty Executive Committee voted to do away with the controversial 1-3-3-1 academic calendar change. The partying was cut short, however, by an email sent out to campus faculty on Monday, where the FEC stated that another calendar change is now on the table. This time the proposal is for a 4-3-1 calendar.

This newer version seems to strike an appealing balance between the strengths of the present calendar and the previous proposal. It would still allow a one-month term for studying abroad and “experiential learning” that would be included in tuition, an obvious improvement over the reputably pricy May terms.

At the same time, it dodges some serious concerns that plagued 1-3-3-1. First, it solves the crucial issue that starting college by taking only an inquiry class for a month would push incoming freshmen onto other campuses before January. Second, science students taking classes like organic chemistry wouldn’t be forced to absorb eight months worth of material in half the time.

So have we found the best of both worlds? Maybe. But the question remains to be answered why the answer to Concordia’s problems is a change in the academic calendar. First, let’s clear the air. Let’s make explicit, once and for all, what the real problem is.

Despite what President Craft said at the open forum, the problem goes deeper than insufficient experiential learning. Experiential learning is possible in the status quo. My finance class just got back from a trip to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. Musical ensembles go on week-long tours every year. Who is to say that a normal class couldn’t do something similar?

The elephant in the room is that Concordia’s enrollment has been declining. We can call the issue an optimal sizing project, or we can directly address a very real problem. It is important that everyone at the college, from students to administrators, be honest about this reality. Only then can we know the full range of options available for dealing with it.

All that being said, the 4-3-1 academic calendar is not inherently a bad proposal. But we have yet to fill the logical gap between the need to attract more students and an academic calendar change.

For a calendar change to be persuasive, we would need a few things. First, we would need to have a better idea of how many more students would be attracted by increasing study abroad opportunities and a new academic calendar in general. Second, we would need it to be marketed extremely well. National newspapers would need to be alerted about a calendar no other school has attempted and we would need a near-perfect pitch for prospective students. Third, we would need assurance of precise implementation. That requires strategy and logistical forethought.

Before we make such a drastic change that will impact every single person on campus, though, we should take a truly critical eye to other improvements that this college can make. The removal of intervisitation restrictions was a good start, albeit a late one. We need to keep going with those sorts of simple but meaningful changes.

Taking a critical eye to the college you love is far from easy, especially for a region that is not exactly known for being culturally mean. But let us take a microscope to the other parts of this campus that we can really improve and make more efficient before we get to the academic calendar. That means thinking about what truly adds value to this place, and what simply does not.

Everyone will probably have an opinion on this, and they should. We should direct our attention to those opinions and the problems they address instead of academic calendar changes so foolish that they don’t even pass the first committee. Look at our marketing efforts. Look at our recruitment strategies. Ask students what they want to see change. We all made our college decisions less than four years ago. We know what attracted us and what put us off, both before and after we arrived here.

By not skipping a beat before tossing another calendar change into the ring, the FEC may have started a cycle. If this one doesn’t pass, are we going to have to vote on another one? Are we going to see a new academic calendar proposed until we finally give up? Stop for a second and answer — and I mean really answer — why the solution is a new academic calendar. Then, and only then, should this proposal be taken seriously. The FEC votes on the new proposal next Friday, so let us hope the answer surfaces soon.


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