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CSU Stanislaus Winter Term canceled

POSTED October 27, 2009 11:23 p.m.
California State University, Stanislaus students held a mock funeral for canceled classes just a few weeks ago. Today, students are mourning the elimination of the Winter Term beginning in 2010-2011, a new cost cutting measure announced by the university on Monday.
The CSU Stanislaus calendar will shift from its current form, which features two 13-week semesters and a four-week winter term, into a more traditional semester system beginning in the 2010-2011 school year. The new schedule calls for two 15-week semesters and a three-week “inter-session” term. Space is freed up for the longer semesters by eliminating the established two-week break following winter term.
According to CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani, there isn’t much difference between the existing winter term and the new inter-session, save for the one-week difference in length.
“It’s exactly the same,” Shirvani said. “If you tell me they (students) needed that winter term to catch up with their classes, I will tell you yes, that's why we put in that inter-session.”
Shirvani said the university spent six months researching the calendar change, with two separate committees delivering their opinions. The ASI Senate suggested the calendar remain as is, while the university wide committee appointed by Shirvani suggested the 15-week semester system that has been adopted.
CSU Stanislaus was the only university in either the CSU or the University of California system to operate under the 13-week semester system, Shirvani said. University staff had to do extra work to convert the unusual structure of the CSU Stanislaus academic year to line up with the accounting done by other universities and various financial aid programs.
CSU Stanislaus will save almost $2 million by implementing the more conventional class schedule, according to Shirvani. About 50 percent of students currently attend Winter Term.
He argues that the change will benefit all students, including those who currently lose out on financial aid when they opt not to register for Winter Term. As financial aid programs such as CalGrants is based on a 30-week school year, students can forego about $1,000 by not studying during Winter Term – a problem which will disappear in the days of two 15-week semesters.
The new inter-session will offer the same three-credit classes as found during the existing Winter Term, despite the reduction of a week’s instruction. Credits will also remain the same for the 15-week semester courses, despite the addition of two weeks, Shirvani said. Graduation credit requirements will remain as they are currently, resulting in students studying an additional three weeks per year under the new calendar for the same amount of credits.
Many students will also pay more, as the inter-session will be offered through University Extended Education rather than CSU Stanislaus proper. Students who are not on financial aid will pay approximately $60 per credit extra for intersession, compared to existing Winter Term fees. Students on financial aid will not pay the premium, as university scholarships will make up the difference between the regular fee and the actual costs.
Shirvani stated that more classes would be offered during inter-session than the existing Winter Term, however, as CSU Stanislaus was able to bring the cost margin down on inter-session classes by offering them through UEE. Current students who face catalog requirements that force at least two Winter Terms during their tenure will find those requirements transfer over to the new inter-session, and that the same classes would be offered.
“We're not eliminating, we are substituting,” Shirvani said. “Same courses, same credits, the only difference is that it’s one week shorter, that’s all.”
However, many students don’t see the changes that way.
“We feel like our voice hasn’t been heard, especially in regards to winter term,” said a student who asked to remain unnamed for fear of retribution.
He said that the university gave students five days to conduct a survey regarding the elimination of Winter Term and that 90 percent of those surveyed supported retaining the four-week semester. While only 50 percent of students may study during that term, he said, countless more work to be able to pay for spring semester.
Many faculty members are also unhappy with the university’s handling of the Winter Term – among other recent events. The Academic Senate, the official representative body of the General Faculty, began proceedings on Tuesday to hold a faculty-wide vote of confidence or no confidence in Shirvani.
The complaints against Shirvani were numerous, ranging from a lack of budgeting transparency to the abandonment of the shared governance process, including the lack of credence paid to the faculty report on Winter Term. Shirvani “won’t even talk” to faculty when he’s supposed to listen to faculty directly except when there’s a clear reason not to, said Economics Professor Elaine Peterson.
“I can’t really have confidence in a leader who doesn’t have confidence in me or us,” said CSU Stanislaus Director MBA Program and Professor of Management Randall Brown.
The Academic Senate will vote whether to hold a vote of confidence or no confidence at their next meeting, currently scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 in the John Stuart Rogers Faculty Development Center at CSU Stanislaus. Ballots would then go to all faculty members, who would cast their votes.
“I think the Senate can do whatever they wish to do,” Shirvani said.
“It's a very tough time and there are very bold and serious decisions that have to be made,” Shirvani continued. “Some certain faculty don't like those decisions. That's all I can say.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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