On Sat, Oct. 22 the Office of the Registrar sent out an all-campus email describing changes to the academic calendar for 2011-17. The most immediate change is that classes will begin at 8:00am on Mon, Jan. 23, 2012 instead of at 6:00pm. Therefore, most students will begin classes a day earlier.
How changes affect students
Initially, the first Monday of the semester, Registration Day, is a day where students could take care of administrative tasks such as going to the Financial Aid Office or the Business Offices. Students had the opportunity to speak with faculty advisors, academic administrators, current students and other new students. Students could also obtain housing information, buy their books and pick up their I.D. cards. The Registrar attempted to remedy this problem by remaining open later on Mon, Jan. 24. They, along with the Business Office and Student Development, will stay open until 6:30pm that day.
Some students are concerned that without free time on the first day, they will not complete necessary tasks. "I, and a lot of people have meetings that day: work study, scholars, equitation classes/barn, business office and financial aid, advisors etc. And, some people can’t move in until then like I had to this semester because of the hurricane. I know they think we do nothing on that day, but a lot happens…How are we suppose to do all that and go to class?," says Amanda Day ‘12.
Nicole Musser ‘13 explained that having extra time on Registration Day was important as last year she could not move into her suite until she completed tasks at the Financial Aid office. "It feels rushed and some people are busy enough just making sure they’re registered properly. You also have to be able to get all of your books on time," she says.
Reasons for change
The change was made because there was an issue maintaining the number of "contact hours," or academic hours in the classroom. The minimum number of contact hours is 42-45 hours per semester. However, other days play a role in limiting this amount, such as Arts Day, the Orr Forum and Dean’s Day, for example. These days may be educational in nature, but leave students short on contact time.
"Days like Dean’s day and snow closures are some things that were not educational days, but faculty were getting concerned with how to cram all of the material into less time," Jean Hoover of the Registrar Office says.
The changes in the academic calendar also affect the J-term courses, as there is an overlap in the schedule. J-term courses end on Jan. 29, while spring term courses begin on Jan. 23. "It’s not a terrible burden, though it would be better if we could avoid it. Students don’t want to be writing final papers for a J-Term class as their new classes begin; faculty don’t want to grade final papers for a J-Term class as their new classes begin," says Asst. Prof. of Philosophy, John Elia, who teaches the J-term course Ethical Issues Today.
Considering new calendar models for the future
"I’d like to see Wilson move to a May-Term (or Maymester, as it is sometimes called) model to replace our current January-Term. The spring semester could be moved up to keep us on schedule with other colleges and universities. As a result, we would finish the semester earlier, which would give working, traditional students additional time to earn money over the summer break. Moreover, a May-Term would be more conducive to study abroad and intensive outdoor courses," Elia says.
This coming spring semester, Commencement will occur prior to the date that final grades are due. Therefore, unlike prior years, actual diplomas will not be given out during commencement, but students will be handed a diploma cover. According to Hoover, most schools do this. Diplomas will be mailed to students 3-4 weeks following Commencement.
The Registrar should consider both student’s and professor’s opinions while changing the academic calendar. According to the projected calendar, after next year, the J-term overlap will not occur until 2015, but classes will continue to begin on Monday at 8:00am. The academic calendar is found on the Wilson College website at http://www.wilson.edu/calendars/index.aspx.