Davis Faculty Association

Conversion to the Semester System: Done Deal or Shared Governance

At the Fall Convocation, Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef outlined a proposal to change from the quarter-based academic calendar to the semester system.  As Chancellor, Vanderhoef has authority over the calendar, although curricular decisions are clearly within the purview of the faculty.  The ultimate decision on this proposal will have to result from the shared governance process.  There is no question that the process of conversion, if undertaken, will be extremely time consuming and require extra effort on the part of faculty and staff.

Vanderhoef put forth five arguments for his recommendation at the convocation.  Conversion to the semester system would:

· Bring UCD in line with more than 75% of the nation’s  research universities.

· Foster articulation  with other institutions in Northern California, most of which are on the semester system.

· Force curricular re-evaluation and reform.

· Help students compete for internships and summer employment

· Reduce staff workload by only requiring two start-ups instead of three.

Pros and Cons of the Shift: The Chancellor’s proposal follows the recommendation of the Semester Conversion Task Force chaired by former Davis Vice Provost Carol Tomlinson-Keasy.  This report, available on the Web at http://www.mrak.ucdavis.edu/semester.htm, also cites  as advantages that the semester system allows for better use of the Library by students; more time for under-prepared and new students to adjust to the campus; more opportunity for thorough examination of a subject;  more time to choose and complete meaningful term paper and research assignments; students to pace their studies and have time for review. It also initiates  the personnel review process sooner;  promotes greater interaction between faculty and students; reduces faculty time spent on preparing  reading lists and course syllabi,  and administering  proportionately fewer exams; and promotes better use of textbooks, which are now designed principally for  the semester system.

However, the report also acknowledges some advantages of the quarter system;

· Departments have greater flexibility in providing course offerings, which also  allows for more curricular innovation;

· Students have more flexibility in selecting majors and arranging class schedules;

· New courses can be created to meet the needs of rapidly changing or
emerging disciplines;

· Students and faculty have more frequent breaks, which reduces intellectual fatigue.

A subcommittee of the Semester Conversion Task Force, chaired by JaRue Manning, examined the  faculty issues and identified several topics of particular relevance to faculty: teaching loads, sabbatical credit, time spent revising courses, the maintenance of subject matter diversity and program quality, the impact on research time, and the issue of shared governance.  Many of these issues will be of more or less relevance depending on the individual discipline and department.

Shared Governance: Of particular interest is the issue of shared governance.  The subcommittee called for a campus wide convocation on the topic of conversion followed by a faculty referendum.

The consultation process is currently underway.  The Academic Senate committees are discussing the proposal as are the executive committees of the colleges and schools. A joint faculty-administration Task Force on Academic Calendar Consultation has been appointed to oversee the integrity of the process of consultation.  Town-hall meetings will be sponsored by the Academic Senate, and a Senate web page has been created to share deliberations.  The use of a referendum has not been mentioned, but there will be a Senate-wide mail ballot.

Informal Poll: In the meantime, Professor Quirino Paris, Agricultural Economics, reported the results of a random survey he recently conducted of 362 members of the Academic Senate.  Of 250 responses, 21 did not state a preference. The remaining 229  voted: 154 in favor of the quarter system (67%);  75 in favor of the semester (33%).

When classified by group of disciplines, the results were:

SCIENCES
86        for the quarter     (61%)
58        for the semester  (39%)

SOCIAL SCIENCES
53        for the quarter     (87%)
8          for the semester  (13%)

ARTS AND HUMANITIES
14          for the quarter     (50%)
14          for the semester  (50%)

More information on the Paris survey along with faculty comments is available on the Web at http: //www.agecon.ucdavis.edu/Faculty/faculty. Click on Paris.

Effect of Early Drop Date: Another issue, not mentioned widely in connection with the switch to an earlier calendar,  is the early drop date used at Davis. According to administration sources, the early drop date in place on campus results in fewer students being counted for funding purposes at Davis that at the other UC campuses.  UCD receives $ 7 million less under the current drop date than if the deadline were later in the quarter as it is at other UC campuses.  Changing the Davis academic calendar might lead to a reconsideration of the early drop date now in place.  This problem may become moot if the Academic Senate’s Universitywide Assembly adopts  a recommendation from its Educational Policy committee to create a systemwide policy governing add/drop dates for courses.

General Education: An additional issue for the campus will be the operation of the general education requirement under the semester system.  With reduced flexibility implied by the semester system, these requirements and courses will need to be recast.

How to Give Your Input: It is evident from Paris’ survey, and previous polls, that the faculty will want to engage in a complete dialogue on this issue and that many will need to be convinced of the wisdom of a shift.  Some of this dialogue will be posted in electronic form on the Senate’s Web page at http://www.mrak.ucdavis.edu/senate/senateho.htm.  Concerned faculty can also write the chancellor using traditional mail or e-mail addressed to semester@ucdavis.edu. To express an opinion about DFA’s role in this issue, contact us at dfamhays@dcn.davis.ca.us.

Shared governance will mean full faculty participation in the consideration of this issue.  Leadership is welcome from the administration, but decisions are made best by those who are most affected by them — in this case, that  is the faculty.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 27th, 1997 at 9:12 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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