On Friday, the first faculty business meeting of the academic year was held in the Scheuer Room. The most discussed topic was student feedback to the spring semester schedule changes that were announced in an email in May.
The result of the meeting’s discussion was reported to the class of 2015 in an email Friday night, which said that the meeting’s participants will hold a vote to determine if the new spring semester changes should be reversed. Meaning, according to Provost Tom Stephenson, the class of 2015’s graduation date is “tentative” for the time being. The next faculty meeting is set for September 26th.
The outcry from the student body regarding the changes has been a major concern for faculty members since the fall semester began.
“[The faculty] takes the students’ concern (especially the relative lack of involvement of students in the decision making process) very seriously,” said Professor of Philosophy Peter Baumann, who was present at the meeting, in an email to the Phoenix.
The upcoming vote seems to prove that the faculty members are trying to address this concern.
Some of the faculty members have been meeting with students individually or in small groups to discuss the pros and cons of the changes in order to give students a voice in the matter. What both sides seem to agree on is that the change came without enough involvement from the student body.
In addition, faculty members seemed genuinely shocked by the reaction from students and had not anticipated the negativity during their discussions with the representatives of the Curriculum Committee last year.
Members of the administration seem to be willing to admit flaws in the decision-making process as well.
“[The lack of transparency] was clearly a mistake. In my first communication with students after the objections started mounting, I admitted that we blew it,” said Stephenson. “I can understand how the timing made it seem like we were trying to avoid controversy, but that is not true.”
Stephenson chaired Friday’s meeting. He said that the problem now is deciding whether it is too late to revert the changes and what would the consequences be if the graduation date was changed once more.
Although Stephenson has claimed responsibility for the lack of communication, some members of the student body do not believe he is the one who deserves the brunt of the blame for the mistake.
“I think Tom Stephenson was put in a real tough place here, because his responsibility is [to be] the liaison to the faculty,” said Peter Amadeo ’15. “He has been taking a lot of the negative effects of this because he was the one who sent the email [in May].”
“I think it is an important mark of maturity and professionalism to be able to admit a mistake and to do everything in your power to fix it,” Amadeo said regarding Stephenson’s actions.
Also discussed was whether sexual assault during senior week was a factor in the decision to change the semester schedule last year. According to Baumann, “sexual assault and less-than-optimal behavior in general during that time of the semester was a huge issue since faculty started discussing a schedule change some months ago. It was not the only issue [discussed] but a major one.” However, Stephenson said that the issue of sexual assault was only briefly mentioned at the meeting.
Stephenson said that, to his knowledge, sexual assault was not one of the reasons for instituting the spring semester change.
As the discussion continues, some students seem to be satisfied with the actions of various faculty members.
“I’ve been very encouraged by my conversations with faculty members, who I think [have] realized how this happened was very wrong, and even if they are ultimately in support of the change, that they realize how bad it was and want to correct that,” said Lauren Barlow ‘15.
Some believe that the increase in conversations between faculty, students and administration that have arisen in the wake of this change will lead to better decision-making in the future.
“If [students] want to propose a solution, I am happy to hear them,” said Stephenson.