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April 8th, 1996

  • Location: Sayles-Hill 251
  • Time: 4:15 pm
  • Present: President Stephen Lewis; students Malika Carter, Amy Fox, Christopher Hilberg, Bruce Manning; Professors Charles Carlin, Mary Easter, James Finholt, Anne Ulmer; staff person Patricia Shanahan; Deans Mark Govoni, Elizabeth McKinsey, Clement Shearer; Alumni Observer Salimah Majeed; Trustee Observer Katherine Youngblood
  • Absent: Student Paul Dosh; Professor Stephen Durbin; staff person Jill Tollefson
  • Guests: Professor Perry Mason, Terry Metz
  • Secretary: Gretchen Dee
  • Keywords: calendar

The minutes of the March 5 meeting were approved without corrections.

President's Report

President Lewis began by congratulating Professor Mary Easter on her recent dance performance. He then informed the Council that letters of acceptance for the class of 2000 had gone out on Monday, March 25, and he reported that the Alumni Annual Fund remained at 15 percent above last year. Next, he stated that the contracts for the Olin /Mudd renovations were now out for bids. The renovations are scheduled to begin this summer. Finally, President Lewis informed the Council of Chaplain Jewelnel Daviss resignation and of her acceptance of a new position at Columbia University in New York. He noted that her presence will be missed at Carleton, and stated he had asked Dean Clem Shearer to head up a committee to find a replacement for Chaplain Davis. A temporary chaplain will be designated in the interim until a national search could be conducted next academic year. President Lewis indicated it will be difficult to find another individual able to maintain the position at its current level which has been expanded over the years by Chaplain Davis.

Calendar Discussion

Dean Elizabeth McKinsey reported that the ECC had reviewed the reports from the departments and had created a concise chart which illustrated the chief advantages and disadvantages of the proposed alternatives to the status quo. The information represented a summary of what was found in the 2 and 1/2 dozen reports received by the ECC. According to Dean McKinsey the departments had been asked to consider a course load reduction where the College would remain on a trimester system and students would enroll in 8 classes and professors would teach 5 classes per year, as well as a semester system where students would enroll in 8 classes and professors would teach 5 classes per year. Dean McKinsey listed the chief advantages of the current system as opposed to the proposed system of semesters from most to least important. The advantages listed were: easier sequencing of curriculum, the possibility of late entry into a major, the frequent monitoring of student progress, the ease with which both faculty and students could participate in off-campus programs, the ability of students to concentrate better on only three courses at a time, the advantage of the long winter break including student work and faculty seminars and research, the convenience of the early start and late finish for athletics, outdoor instruction and outdoor research, and the marketing advantage of a distinctive calendar. She noted the flexibility the current calendar allowed students and faculty was a core quality. The disadvantages were: the fast pace which hindered the incubation of ideas and development of skills, the lack of sustained projects preceding the comps exercise, and short summers and spring breaks which significantly reduced opportunities for faculty renewal and research. Dean McKinsey stated the need for the calendar discussion to focus on the flexibility issue and the pace issue which she felt were the most important.

Dean McKinsey yielded to the ECC Co-Chair Professor Perry Mason for discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of a 6-course load for faculty versus the 5-course load proposed from most to least important. The advantages listed revolved around the richness of the curriculum such as: the number of courses offered, the depth and breadth of the student experience due to the number of subjects to which theyre exposed, the availability of interdisciplinary programs which would be reduced disproportionately if the course load changed, the ease with which off-campus programs fit into department curricula, and smaller class sizes. The disadvantages of the status quo listed were the tremendous workload and stress for faculty and students as well as the lack of time for faculty research and development. Professor Mason pointed to the fact that no credit was given for comps advising and that a reduction in courses would substitute formal class interaction between faculty and students with more opportunities for informal interaction.

Professor Mason stated that the faculty would continue to meet and discuss the issue. He reminded the council that Dean Mark Govoni was currently going through CSL and CSA to propose their joining the ECC in sponsoring an open forum about these issues. He hoped to encourage knowledgeable and intelligent debate about the relative advantages and disadvantages of alternative plans. He noted the complexity of the discussion given that the calendar question and the course load question are distinct issues that are undeniably connected. Professor Mason stated that a change to a semester calendar without a change in course load was not a consideration currently. He stated that the discussion had uncovered deep fundamental differences among faculty members as well as honest , dispassionate analysis.

Student Bruce Manning questioned how a reduction in courses would resonate with students. Student Malika Carter agreed that students accustomed to the current pace would be dissatisfied. Student Amy Fox was concerned that a reduction in course load would affect Minnesota grants which require a specific enrollment status. Dean McKinsey stated this was a concern that would need to be addressed satisfactorily.

Student Bruce Manning questioned the salience of class size in attitudes toward faculty workload. Professor Mason stated that complaints about the current scheme are not based on high student enrollments. Rather, problems were traced to the intensity of the program. Professor Finholt deduced that class size should only increase from an average of 12 persons per class to 14 1/2 persons per class if the faculty course load were reduced but not the students. Discussion occurred on the need to find a reasonable balance. Trustee Observer Katherine Youngblood questioned the importance of the calendar to a high school senior when choosing a college. Students on the Council had mixed opinions, but Professor Anne Ulmer stated that for student athletes, in particular, Carleton offers a comparative advantage and the distinctive calendar is a strong recruiting tool.

President Lewis suggested that the sabbatical system should be considered as part of the mix, since there are some trade-offs between reduced formal teaching responsibilities and frequency of sabbaticals. Dean Shearer reminded the Council that the pace of a course is generally determined by the professor, who often has the tendency to cover too much information. Dean Shearer feared that with a calendar change the temptation would be to maintain the pace, but add more material. If students were taking a 4-course load, less time would be available for the incubation and development of thought. Discussion followed about the importance of time to develop thoughts and ideas. Professor Mason felt the need is especially important in the humanities and literature. Professor Mary Easter emphasized the importance of physical skill development in dance. Dean McKinsey noted the constraints on the development of writing skills under the current system.

Student Chris Hilberg stated although some courses would vanish when the course load was reduced for a calendar change, a lot of the material would be incorporated in other courses due to the extended time frame. Professor Ulmer stressed again her concern that faculty members would not reduce the pace, instead add more material to courses which would increase student stress.

Staff person Patricia Shanahan asked what influence the staff departments had in the policy recommendations. Professor Mason told her that 6 departments had been identified as being highly influenced by the debate and had participated. Professor Ulmer ended by reminding the Council that the burden of proof was upon the alternative system.

Meeting was adjourned at 6:05 p.m.