After months of meetings, online Facebook petitions, and proposals from both the student council and Faculty of Arts and Sciences end, the academic calendar issue was declared formally resolved at this afternoon’s University Senate plenary.
The Senate approved a resolution that would allow any University student to reschedule exams on December 23rd through a written request to the faculty member administering the exam and respective dean of student affairs. The request must be submitted by December 1st and must demonstrate that an exam on December 23rd presents “undue hardship” for the student and, if accepted, will mandate the exam be rescheduled between student and faculty member at a “mutually acceptable time.”
“This is a win for students. This is acceptable to faculty; this is acceptable to administrators. It accomplishes what we need while moving little around as possible,” said Tao Tan, CC ’07, MBA ’11, and chair of the Student Affairs Committee. The resolution was a joint product of the Education Committee and the Student Affairs Committee and will take effect this upcoming fall.
Addressing the Senate, Tan commented that this resolution was “piggybacking” on an existing policy of the undergraduate colleges that allow students with three or more exams on a given day to reschedule. Speaking on the current policy, he said, “We’ve expanded it to include the 23rd and also across all different schools University-wide.”
Tan also commented that the resolution addressed the petition begun on Facebook in December, which called for the Office of the Registrar to “change the dates of the calendar, or at least be able to make provision for those that the intrusive calendar affects.” Backed by over 2000 signatures, the petition was submitted to the Education Committee in January.
Petition creators Marisa Rama, CC ’12, and Jordan Hewson, CC ’12, were present at the meeting, along with five other students, in protest of the committee’s resolution. They did not address the Senate in full, but spoke to student senators after the plenary was adjourned.
“2000 people responded; that’s about 1/3 of the class,” said Rama in an interview. “It just makes me angry that this,” she commented, motioning to a print out of the proposal, “is the only thing they are considering.”
Rama did not consider the resolution an effective measure in alleviating the strain of this fall’s final season, which will also end on the 23rd of December, and that it would create disparities among students.
“This could be a complicated process for people and will allow for inconsistencies between those who petition and those who does not,” Rama said. She also felt the requests of the Facebook petition were “misrepresented,” adding, “There were concerns other than the 23rd that weren’t really taken into account.”
Hewson voiced frustration with a resolution she didn’t feel met students’ needs, stating, “The University has chosen to protect its faculty and professors rather than its students.”
The protesting party lingered after the meeting to air their concerns to student senators, expressing a desire for conversation to continue next semester.
“What’s coming out of this is that we’ve got to be more communicative,” Journalism senator Andrew Springer said. “This is a first step. We’ve made our case the Columbia community,” adding that having two study days next semester, as opposed to the usual three, is “still an issue.”
Tan affirmed that the Student Affairs Committee would evaluate the efficacy of the resolution next December. “This is going to take effect this year immediately and if its not working, we will reexamine it,” he said.
Education committee co-chair James Applegate, professor of astronomy, considered the resolution “workable” and did not foresee any major changes to the academic calendar come fall. “We’ll have informal discussions, but this will not be an agenda item. The review of the academic calendar is over, other than ongoing monitoring of the academic calendar per our mandate.”
The most contentious issue on the Senate’s agenda this semester, the review of the academic calendar by the Education Committee was amplified by students’ discontent over the December 23rd end to the fall semester complicating travel fares and holiday plans. The review generated various responses over the semester, including a student solution to start a week before Labor Day, presented by student council leadership at last month’s plenary, and the faculty solution to hold classes on Election Day Monday and finals over the weekend.
Professor Samuel Silverstein, the senator who originated the idea, said coming up with a compromise was a matter of polling constituency. “I think it was important the analysis was made about what people cared about most,” he said, elaborating, “The students highest priority was not to have exam’s on the 23rd…the faculty’s highest priority was not to start before Labor Day…once you had the two bookends, it wasn’t difficult.”
He anticipated that with the resolution’s implementation, there would be “a vanishing number of students who had serious problems.” As for those who were still unsatisfied, Silverstein thought that any alternative would pose a difficulty for any given stakeholder of the University.
“We could imagine any situation to be terrible. It’s really as bad as we imagine it. So let’s see how this goes and if we need to make accommodations, we’ll make them as they come up,” he said.