By Casey S. Elliott
The Quarters to Semesters Transition Team is requesting universitywide feedback on a draft 2012-13 academic year calendar by the start of winter quarter January 5.
The team has been meeting weekly since September in an effort to map out timelines and guiding principles related to the conversion. It expects to complete its work by the end of winter quarter. Ohio University, which is among four public universities in the state still on a quarter system, plans to make the switch in fall 2012.
A draft calendar in PDF format is available on the quarters to semesters Web site. (Shaded areas indicate semester class days, and darker areas within the shaded areas indicate holidays. Boxed dates indicate exam weeks.) The draft calendar follows a standard semester calendar, which includes 15 weeks (74 class days) and one week for finals.
Classics and World Religions Chair Tom Carpenter, who is co-chairing the transition team with Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies David Descutner, said the group is especially interested in the university community's views on the length of breaks, in particular whether a long winter break or long summer session is preferable. Team members caution that it is impossible to have both.
The draft has tentative dates for fall-semester classes beginning Aug. 20 and ending Dec. 7, with finals week Dec. 10-14. It lists spring semester running from Jan. 7 to April 26, with finals week April 29-May 3. Spring break is listed as March 11-15. Carpenter noted Aug. 20 would be the earliest classes would start in any given year.
The team will address the structure of summer semester once the basic calendar structure is determined.
An extended winter break offers opportunities for research between semesters, while a long summer break provides more time for internships, committee members note.
Feedback on the draft calendar should be e-mailed to Descutner at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views from all segments of the university community -- faculty, staff and students -- are welcomed.
Beyond the overall academic calendar, the University Curriculum Council (UCC) and Faculty Senate's Educational Policy and Student Affairs committee (EPSA) are delving into processes required for course approval under a semester calendar.
Transition team member Jeff Giesey, chair of EPSA, brought forward for discussion a draft proposal for general education requirements to Faculty Senate Monday. The proposal calls for converting existing course requirements for general education from a quarter calendar to a semester one without substantive changes. Giesey said it would be difficult to do anything more extensive, as departments and schools need those guidelines in place when they begin their individual program conversions this coming spring.
Giesey said the plan is to present the draft proposal to Faculty Senate in January for first reading, with approval expected by that body in February. Consideration of the proposal by Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl would follow.
Andy Jorgensen, a senior fellow at the National Council for Science and Environment currently on sabbatical from his position as an associate professor and director of general chemistry at the University of Toledo, met with several university groups last week to discuss his experience leading the quarters to semesters conversion at Toledo. Jorgensen met with members of the transition team and those who do research for it, executive staff, deans and assistant deans, and EPSA and UCC representatives.
Jorgensen, in a phone interview Wednesday, said he addressed a variety of questions about the University of Toledo's experience and how the logistics of its conversion affected various university groups.
He said Ohio University is avoiding many of the pitfalls Toledo faced thanks to the amount of time it is devoting to the conversion process.
"One of our biggest pitfalls was that we didn't have enough time," he said, commending the transition team's recommendation to give departments and schools an extension to conduct their course conversions. "We only gave faculty and departments one 11-week quarter to come up with their curriculum conversion."
Jorgensen provided University of Toledo transition documents to help members of the Ohio University community get a better picture of the process. Those documents can be viewed here.
The University System of Ohio has encouraged the conversion to semesters in order to increase collaboration between institutions in Ohio and make it easier for students to transfer between them.
Guiding principles for Ohio University's transition include ensuring it does not set students back in their graduation timeline, that faculty workload remains neutral and is determined by individual departments, and that curriculum revisions in one department do not adversely affect those in another.