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Students continue to protest change in academic calendar

Students continue to protest change in academic calendar

Students lead a mock funeral procession at California State University, Stanislaus on Wednesday to mourn the loss of Winter Term, which will not return for the 2010-2011 school year. Administrators...


POSTED January 29, 2010 11:27 p.m.
The California State University, Stanislaus administration is moving forward with plans to eliminate Winter Term for the 2010-2011 school year, stating that a new calendar with longer semesters and a new intersession will benefit the majority of students, but faculty and students are continuing to fight for the instructional period.
More than 3,100 CSU Stanislaus students have signed a petition supporting the return of Winter Term. The University has 7,439 students, 3,818 of whom are enrolled in the 2010 Winter Term.
The petition was delivered to CSU Stanislaus administration Wednesday, during a student protest named the “CSU Stanislaus Winter Term Memorial.” The macabre event involved faux tombstones, a coffin, and even a student-owned hearse as students, “shared memories of their departed friend, Winter Term.”
“The impact was just what we wanted,” said Ryan Fikejs, a student organizer of the event and member of Warriors Fight Back! “The majority of faculty and the majority of students support the return of Winter Term.”
On Dec. 18, 2009, the CSU Stanislaus Associated Students, Incorporated Senate passed a resolution in support of the current academic calendar, stating that the calendar better allows students to complete units than a traditional two-semester system.
“One of our roles is to be the voice of the students and there has been a huge student outcry,” said Rick Albert, internal vice president of Associated Students, Inc.
On Tuesday, the CSU Stanislaus Academic Senate voiced support for the ASI action and the return of Winter Term, overwhelmingly approving a resolution that commended the students for their “professional and collegial engagement,” and urged President Hamid Shirvani to reconsider restructuring the academic calendar.
“I am very moved by the extreme number of students who have voiced their opinion on this, not only in the (University Educational Policies Committee) report (where 81 percent of 986 students interviewed supported Winter Term) but also in the 3,100 names collected by students on their own because they cared so much about an issue many thought was dead,” said Betsy Eudey, professor of Gender Studies at CSU Stanislaus and Clerk of the Academic Senate.
According to CSU Stanislaus administration, the change to the academic calendar — which will extend the fall and spring semesters by two weeks each and replace the four-week Winter Term with a University Extended Education operated three-week intersession — will benefit the majority of students.
“What we’re really trying to do is for the students,” said Russell Giambelluca, CSU Stanislaus vice president of Business and Finance.
CSU Stanislaus financial aid students — 65.6 percent of undergraduates and 63.2 percent of all students — would receive the most benefits from the change, while students who do not receive financial aid would be asked to pay more in tuition for the same amount of in-class time and units.
Currently, as the Winter Term is considered part of the 30-week school year, financial aid students lose funding if they choose not to enroll. In the 2008/2009 school year, CSU Stanislaus students lost $430,500 because they did not enroll in Winter Term.
Students who pay their own way, however, will be asked to pay more. Rather than the traditional state-subsidized Winter Term tuition, students will pay the self-supported University Extended Education tuition, which is currently higher than state tuition.
Giambelluca noted that grants would be made available for financial aid students to eliminate the difference between state fees and the UEE fees. He also stated that the gap in cost could disappear over time.
“As fees go up, we intend to hold UEE fees constant,” Giambelluca said.
Giambelluca stressed that the intersession can and likely will offer all of the classes currently available during Winter Term, in addition to new classes. Tenured faculty would be given the opportunity to teach the intersession courses, and if they choose not to then “other competent faculty” would be found to offer the classes students want and need.
The three-week intersession classes would last the same number of minutes as four-week Winter Term classes and offer the same number of units, just with more minutes each day. Some faculty members have voiced concern that their four-week classes would not be teachable in three, despite the added minutes.
Fall and spring semester courses would be two weeks longer under the new calendar, but offer the same actual in-class time and be worth the same amount of units as under the existing calendar. The administration believes the additional meetings, with fewer minutes each day, would allow for better interaction between students and professors.
Fall and Spring fees would increase, according to Giambelluca, but financial aid students would see their grants adjust accordingly.
Faculty and students have also raised concerns that the elimination of Winter Term could hurt graduation rates, as course completion rates are higher in that session. According to the university, the intersession was introduced into the calendar to give students the same option as Winter Term offered, and to help students take extra classes to earn their degrees quickly.
Giambelluca also noted that students could opt to take more classes in the Fall and Spring terms should they choose not to attend intersession. Under the CSU System, students may take more than 12 units at no additional cost, he said.
The move away from Winter Term is expected to save CSU Stanislaus $1.2 million under conservative projections, Giambelluca said. The savings to the university could be crucial, considering the critical nature of the state budget and the recent 20 percent cuts CSU Stanislaus endured, leading to the decision not to reappoint 108 faculty members.
According to a letter penned by Steven Filling, president of the Academic Senate, Shirvani recently told the Senate Executive Committee that the likely range for savings is closer to $700,000. The UEPC report on Winter Term projects savings closer to $150,000, with a possible cost.
Giambelluca maintains that the $1.2 million estimate is accurate, and conservative.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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