Changes to semester, class length proposed for next year

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Changes to semester, class length proposed for next year

Photo credit: Hayley Hynes

Photo credit: Hayley Hynes

Photo credit: Hayley Hynes

Photo credit: Hayley Hynes

Sidney Holmes

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Changes could be coming to student schedules starting next year, with longer class periods and shorter semesters.

The proposed changes would shorten the length of the fall and spring semesters from 16 to 14 weeks, and class times would increase to make up for the loss of those weeks. Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes would last an hour instead of 50 minutes. Monday, Wednesday classes and Tuesday, Thursday classes would be 90 minutes instead of 75, and single-day classes would be three hours long.

The changes are being proposed to make room for new school terms, called the “J-term” and “May term,” which are two-week intersession periods that will take place in January and May.

According to Maria Calzada, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the May term can be implemented without any changes to the current calendar, and it will happen in May 2018, but she said it takes significant work to make the J-term happen, which may include changing the schedule.

Calzada said the J and May terms would allow students to complete a three credit hour class quickly by taking a six-hour-long class Monday through Thursday for two weeks. She said these classes would differ from typical classes offered in the fall and spring semesters.

“The courses are going to be very hands-on and experiential learning in essence,” Calzada said.

Justin Nystrom, university senate chairman, said this new initiative is a part of Project Magis, a plan introduced by Interim Provost David Brofsky to help Loyola gain financial stability.

Project Magis is split into several work streams created by ideas from the community. The initiatives that come from these work streams are headed by members of the Loyola community. Calzada is the leader of the J and May term initiative. Her job is to do background work, such as researching other schools and gathering input from Loyola faculty and students to see if this new schedule is possible.

Calzada said that this schedule is still in an early phase, and it has to go through a few steps before it can become a reality. The university senate and the provost council will vote on the proposal, but Calzada said that their votes are recommendations, because the final decision is made by the provost, who is the chief academic officer.

Another part of the proposed schedule includes a shortened spring break. In the calendar, the Easter holidays run from Thursday to Monday, effectively eliminating three days of the break.

According to Desiree Rodriguez, executive assistant to the provost, the courses taught during the J-term and May Term would charge the same tuition as a regular semester course.

The university senate held an emergency meeting on Sept. 28 where the senators presented many concerns about the new schedule, Nystrom said.

“Anytime you do change, there’s going to be debate,” he said.

Some topics debated were the ability to hold students’ attention and the effects longer classes will have on their mental health. The biology department questioned how the schedule would affect lab times. Other faculty senators wondered how it would impact working students’ schedules outside of school.

Senators proposed alternatives to the schedule changes, such as shortening the Mardi Gras break or starting the fall semester one week early and returning for the spring semester one week later.

Eileen Doll, chairwoman of the languages and cultures department, said her department didn’t comprehend the purpose of this change.

“We don’t really understand entirely why we’re doing this,” Doll said.

She said this change would affect the way languages are taught, because there is the possibility of having longer classes less often.

“Pedagogically, it’s better to have more contact in shorter periods to get more practice and to get more consistent contact with a language,” Doll said. “You have the same material, and you have the same amount of class time, but that doesn’t give you the same results. In skills classes, additional contact makes a difference,” Doll said.

Doll added she doesn’t see how J-terms could be useful in the language department, especially for beginner language courses.

“I’m sure there are some benefits, or we wouldn’t be considering this,” she said.

Nystrom said that J-terms aren’t made for every discipline.

“They’re not for everything, and we won’t want them to be,” he said.

Nystrom said that it’s important for senators to not only talk to their department about these proposed schedule changes, but also their students.

“The senate has been pretty effective so far representing the faculty. We need to do a better job of seeing how the students feel about this as well,” Nystrom said.

SGA president Ben Weil and vice president Blane Mader said that they are unsure about the possible schedule changes.

“We’re kind of in the dark around a lot of the information,” Mader said, but Weil said that he trusts that it’s coming.

Naomi Yavneh, director of the Honors program, has been informing students like Andrew Harper, environmental science junior, about the J-terms and how they could affect their class schedule.

Harper said that the schedule changes seemed like a good idea at first glance, because of the longer breaks, but there are still some worries.

“Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes going from 50 to 60 minutes doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. The only thing I’m worried about is the Tuesday and Thursday classes, because those are already pretty long classes,” he said.

When it comes to planning his schedule, he said the changes could affect his science labs or his job.

Harper understands how the new terms could be helpful to some students, but he doesn’t see a use for himself.

“As of right now, I would not take classes in the J or May terms, just because I have set my schedule to where I would graduate on time without having to do that,” Harper said.

Although the inclusion of the terms can be beneficial, Harper said, it’s important to get the opinions of everyone who will be affected by the changes.

“It’s not only going to affect the professors that teach the classes, but it’s also going to affect the students who take them, and whether or not they will be able to stay at Loyola because of this change,” Harper said.

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