Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
A vote at the Monday, September 29 faculty meeting reversed the controversial spring schedule change announced earlier this year. Faculty voted to return to the previous spring schedule, in which the class of 2015 will graduate May 31st, and have a full reading period and senior week. This schedule will also remain in place for the class of 2016.
The original decision to change the schedule was announced on May 21, 2014, and was met with near universal pushback from the student body. In a poll conducted by Student Council, 90% of students were opposed to the change.
As detailed in the Daily Gazette earlier this month, Patrick Ross ‘15, Lauren Barlow ‘15, Peter Amadeo ‘15, Rehana Omardeen ‘15, and Tim Vaughan ‘15 led an organized senior class effort to push faculty to reevalute the decision. These students, among others, held meetings with administrators and had one-on-one conversations with faculty in an effort to return to the original, extended schedule.
In an email to the student body on Tuesday, September 30, Provost Tom Stephenson explained that the re-vote came after faculty “carefully [weighed] the overwhelmingly negative student response to the modified calendar” and had a “lively debate” over possible solutions. The email also said that, while a full-length senior week has been re-instated, the administration will still be providing funding for senior week in order to ensure “class officers will be able to focus their time and energy on creating opportunities for seniors to connect […] rather then (sic) having to focus so heavily on fundraising for one week.”
When the faculty decision was announced on the night of September 29, Amadeo stopped working and took victory laps. “I was sitting in the Science commons and I just ran out, ran around, and ran back in,” said Amadeo. Ross, who said he took his own, separate victory lap, was happy with the change but said he was “not nearly as excited as I should be […] mostly because I truly never believed the May 24 date would stick […] we refused to believe it, and so didn’t.”
Ross and Amadeo commended this reversal as a victory for student voices. “I’m not saying that the faculty had nothing to do with this, but this, I can tell you for a fact, would not have changed if the students hadn’t made the effort,” said Amadeo. “This was student driven.”
Ross said that while the administration that “shrugged off our walloping statistics (90% of students opposed) all summer long,” and “shov[ed] us from meeting to meeting, each one less productive than the next” the faculty was very responsive to student feedback. “As soon as the faculty were made aware of our concerns this semester, they started to move in the right direction. It only took a few weeks,” he said.
Sara Morell ‘15, who joined Amadeo in his victory lap around the Science Center, said, “It’s become very clear that we are, as a student body, somewhat opinionated and that if we feel like we’re not being listened to we’ll demand it. I’ve been so grateful to people in my class for really standing up for what they believe.” Morell went on to say that she hopes “going forward this is going to create a culture of discourse between faculty and the students.”
When asked if this reversal affirmed his faith in student power on campus, Amadeo said, “[I’m] a little too cynical to hope for that. I would love for every decision to come out at this school to be very transparent and very honest and involve student input, but I don’t think the overturning of one bad policy is going to change that in the future.” Ross was slightly more optimistic, and said “There’s been so much bureaucratic flogging of the student body in recent years, it’s felt as though the Quaker ideal of open dialogue was long dead. It’s reaffirming to see that our voices do still count– even if it’s only the faculty who listen.”
Amadeo hopes that polls of the larger student body will precede any future policy changes, and final changes will be accompanied by “the real rationale” behind the decision, in order to ensure that students understand why the changes are being enacted. He likened the poorly received schedule change decision to the college’s new alcohol policy, saying he believed students would be less opposed to changes they if they understood “where they’re coming from.”
The spring schedule for the class of 2017 and beyond remains undecided. Stephenson’s email stated that the spring semester of 2017 “may follow the modified calendar adopted by the faculty last spring,” but “further changes to the calendar for the Class of 2017 and beyond are possible.”