College Senate assesses plan to extend winter intersession between fall, spring semesters

President Denise Battles (pictured above) speaking at the April 3 College Senate meeting in Newton 204.  The Senate will be voting on a proposed calendar revision that includes a new winter intersession at the May 1 meeting. This would allow students to manage their course load , take extra classes or study abroad when college is not in session. (Annalee Bainnson/photo editor)

The Geneseo College Senate has designed an academic calendar that would incorporate a new winter intersession. The proposed calendar is expected to be voted on at the May 1 College Senate meeting before going to President Denise Battles for the final decision, according to associate professor of biology and Chair of the College Senate Executive Committee Duane McPherson.

A Calendar Committee was formed in October 2017, and this subcommittee is tasked with calendar revisions, according to an announcement at the Oct. 17, 2017 Senate meeting. The subcommittee sought a new calendar that would allow for a period between the fall and spring semesters to be long enough for students to take intersession courses, according to associate professor of Spanish and Chair of the Calendar Committee Rose McEwen.

“I have always been passionate about changing the calendar,” McEwen said. “There are people who can barely keep up with 12 credits, let alone 15. Being able to take extra courses, not in the summer when you may need to work or you might be hoping to study abroad, or vice versa, you can take classes [or] study abroad in the winter. The changes could allow students to customize their course loads.” 

McEwen stated that her initial proposal incorporated an idea that would end the fall semester before Thanksgiving and keep the spring semester as it currently stands. The committee also devised two other calendar plans, which the Senate Executive Committee synthesized into a compromised proposal, according to McEwen. 

McPherson has been working on the calendar in the Senate Executive Committee. The calendar requires a certain number of weeks per year, which weighs heavily on the planned changes, according to McPherson. 

“That’s the challenge; how to do that with the least amount of disruption?” McPherson said. “What we heard [at the March 6 Senate meeting] is that people would rather start a week later in the spring than start a week earlier in August.”

The minutes from the College Senate meeting confirmed this, stating, “The majority voted in favor of starting the Spring semester later.” 

This compromised proposal would move the spring semester back by a week, which would subsequently push the end of classes and finals a week back in May, according to McPherson. McPherson noted at the April 3 College Senate meeting that the Senate would need to work out some issues that might arise during unusual calendar years.

Once the Senate reached general agreement that the spring semester should be the site for calendar changes, most people accepted the proposal, according to McPherson.

“There’s pretty broad agreement within the executive committee with fairly minor disagreements about particulars,” McPherson said. “Should GREAT Day stay a Tuesday or would it be ok to move GREAT Day to a Wednesday?” 

The changes to the calendar could go into effect as soon as the 2018-19 academic year, according to McPherson. 

“Since none of the ideas we’re thinking about would change the fall semester, if we have a productive discussion then we could bring a proposal to vote on in the May senate meeting,” McPherson said. “I think it’s quite possible that this new calendar could begin next year.”

Students who elect not to take winter courses can also see the benefits of the proposed changes, according to McEwen. 

“For people who don’t want to take another class, it means there’s another week there that they can do something else,” McPherson said. “Hopefully, everybody comes back in the spring that much more refreshed.”

Geochemistry major junior Matthew Flood expressed some concerns about potential offerings in the winter. 

“Given what the school does with its summer courses here, I would be afraid that the school wouldn’t offer many courses over the winter break, basically hindering everyone else by starting everything a week later,” Flood said. 

Flood was also not impressed with the prospects for the additional time between semesters for students who would not take winter classes.

“I don’t think it means anything since it means that we’ll just have a week shorter of summer break,” Flood said. “You’re just taking one week and adding it somewhere else.”

McPherson alternatively said that the potential benefits of adding an intersession were significant.

“There’s a lot of demand for winter session courses. Students want to have something and we would like to be able to offer them here as well as students taking them at other schools,” McPherson said. “A lot of them will probably be studying abroad or [completing] domestic field studies, and then some number of courses that faculty choose to teach here on-campus."

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