The recent calendar change appears to be a haphazard and rushed attempt at addressing many problems that are present on this campus. While change is a natural, necessary process, over the course of the last three weeks, we have seen it result in a policy that does not seem as well-planned as its consequences necessitate.
The Executive Committee of Student Council and I recently outlined a list of arguments against the calendar change. These grievances included: international students would be less able to travel home over the winter vacation, winter sport tryouts would conflict with final exams, a Thanksgiving vacation followed by a two-week period of classes, followed by a two-week winter vacation would be awkward and unnescessary and faculty might assign homework over the winter vacation. These are among the many concerns presented in both our document and voiced by other students.
In addition, I worry that the calendar change will unleash a wave of problems which have yet to be formally addressed, some of which will remained unreconciled.
Granted, the College Counseling Office, the Athletic Office and the Dean of Studies Office have each articulated many cogent points in support of the change. The most significant advantage of the schedule change would provide Seniors with their final grades for their early college applications. Colleges and universities have begun stressing the need for early applicants to have a full term’s worth of grades available, as opposed to projected ones Andover currently sends them. With the increasing number of Seniors applying early to college (70 percent of the Class of 2013 according to the CCO), many faculty and administrators have argued that we should modify our schedule to resemble that of our peer schools like Deerfield and Exeter.
Moreover, supporters of the change point out that students applying for finanical aid are currently being disadvantaged by the current calendar model. Those who gain acceptance early are more likely to receive larger financial aid grants because schools have more funds available early in the year. All of these points are valid and merit discussion and action.
However, I question what I see as unwavering conformity on the part of the faculty to support this process of change (which I view as quite flawed), over our own school’s schedule. By shifting the calendar, the faculty essentially signaled that it was willing to sacrifice many of the benefits of the current Andover schedule, such as the ability for international students to spend more time with their families in December.
When faculty voted in favor of the calendar change, they did so in our best interests, especially the Seniors appling early to college, but I worry that the move rendered us pawns to an increasingly questionable system. I find it frightening that no quantitative studies were conducted (if they were, they were not made available to my committee or to Student Council) on the part of the faculty to determine the actual effects of the equal term model, hence why I refer to the calendar change as haphazard.
Will switching to this new model actually increase financial aid pacakages? Are students at peer schools more likely to be accepted early because they have adopted this new schedule? Is the early application process even worth the myriad of negative school-wide consequences the calendar adjustment would have? These questions have remained insufficiently answered—at least by the faculty.
Students, however, responded with a resounding “no” to the last question. Eighty-one percent of 541 students who responded to The Phillipian survey disagreed with the new schedule change. The opinions of this majority may have been expressed, but I fear that they were not considered as thoughtfully as the situation demanded. The practical concerns of this change will ultimately hit students the hardest.
While I do not doubt the earnest efforts of all the faculty who supported the change, I doubt that they weighed carefully enough the pros and cons of the shift to equal terms. Let me be clear in saying that I applaud the efforts of Head of School John Palfrey in allowing students to discuss their concerns with faculty. He and many other senior administrators listened to our concerns, and for that they deserve commendation. But overall, I am concerned that the decision was not made with the necessary consideration and care it merited.
I do not propose that the student body “storm the Bastille” of GW. Unfortunately, repeal is all but impossible. What we must do, guided by the leadership of Student Council, is devise solutions to the problems the calendar change could engender. Yes, the faculty, in my view, acted erroneously, but this doesn’t mean that we should shun them. Instead, we must work cooperatively with faculty to make the calendar less problematic than it is now. Some of our grievances will only be partially resolved.
Nonetheless, for now, we must take what we can out of the new calendar. Perhaps that means a December term, in which students could travel abroad, study certain topics in depth, or collaborate on independent projects. Whatever the case we, the 81 percent, must be fully committed to working with 100 percent of the community to implement a long-term plan.
Most importantly, I pray that the faculty not only hear but also fully listen to the voices of the student body. I am confident, though, that we will find a way to avoid tension and reach a feasible solution.
Junius Williams is a three-year Upper and an Upper Representative from Newark, NJ.