The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) has endorsed an academic calendar for the 2014 through 2019 school years that would eliminate the day currently set aside for Spring Fling after the end of spring semester classes. Faculty members will have the opportunity to vote on the calendar change in a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4. If faculty vote to accept this change, Spring Fling will instead take place during reading period, which would leave a total of four days—instead of the current five days—between the end of classes and the beginning of final exams.
The EPC, which is composed of faculty members as well as one graduate and two undergraduate student representatives, decided to support the change after considering factors such as grading deadlines for professors, as well as high-risk drinking associated with Spring Fling.
“Opinions on the calendar are varied and there are complex trade-offs that need to be weighed,” Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley wrote in an email to The Argus. “It has been my observation that many (certainly not all) students use at least part of the designated Reading Period as an opportunity to party (with the associated high-risk drinking, etc.) rather than using all of the designated time to prepare for final exams, papers, etc.”
On Nov. 18, Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) members unanimously passed a resolution opposing this change and highlighting the large portion of the Student Activities Fee devoted to Spring Fling as well as the problems many students face in preparing for exams under the current calendar.
“The WSA…urges the Educational Policy Committee to maintain the current policy of having a day for Spring Fling, four days for reading period, and four days for final exams,” the resolution reads.
WSA President Zachary Malter ’13 noted that this was the first resolution this year to pass unanimously in the WSA and expressed his dissatisfaction with the EPC’s decision.
“We know how high-stress the reading week is already,” Malter said. “The faculty would like more time to grade, and so their solution is to shorten the amount of time students have to study, to learn, to absorb information in a healthy and productive way. I think that’s a mistake.”
The EPC considered adhering to the WSA resolution but ultimately decided to endorse the proposed change.
“As strongly united as the WSA is around this issue, both faculty and parts of the administration are not necessarily in agreement that devoting a non-reading day to Spring Fling is for the best,” EPC Chair and Associate Professor of Biology Michael Singer wrote in an email to The Argus. “I’ll let Dean Whaley speak for himself about his office’s concerns about the WSA proposal, but I will say that the EPC took seriously those concerns.”
Singer cited other factors that the EPC considered, including the length of the University reading period compared to those at peer schools, as well as past iterations of the academic calendar.
“At least one past Wesleyan calendar had the spring reading period with Spring Fling included as one of the days,” Singer wrote. “Therefore, while recognizing that students feel much stress during reading week and want as much time for studying as they can get, the EPC rejected the WSA argument because evidence and historical precedent suggest that the proposed calendar is workable, whereas alternatives were considered less workable for the greater University community.”
Malter said that he felt there has been a lack of dialogue between students and the EPC on this issue.
“The EPC [issued a] survey last year proposing a host of changes, getting input from all constituencies about those changes, and this was left off,” Malter said. “The fact that the EPC isn’t willing to have a conversation with the community about what is a fair sacrifice I think is problematic. I think that conversation needs to happen before the schedule for the next five years is finalized. There are voices that need to be heard.”
Singer said that the EPC did compromise on other issues.
“It is worth noting this is the one issue in which the WSA perspective did not win out, and that the proposed calendar includes similar sacrifices by the faculty and the administration,” Singer wrote. “This is the case for a variety of particular issues in the calendar because the calendar is necessarily a compromise between various stakeholders who sometimes have conflicting interests.”
Malter lamented what he saw as an unwillingness of the EPC to devote more time to the issue. He proposed potentially delaying the vote or voting on each clause independently.
“It’s time to open up a discussion on what is the appropriate way to address some of the problems such as grading,” Malter said. “The faculty don’t feel like they have enough time; maybe there’s a way to address that which doesn’t hurt students. Maybe there’s a better way to [decrease] drinking rather than making students more stressed out. I encourage students to confer with faculty members and let them know how important it is that they have no less time to study and to move out at the end of the year.”
Chair of the WSA Student Affairs Committee Nicole Updegrove ’14 doubts that the proposed calendar change would decrease drinking.
“I’m convinced that a move that essentially cuts a day of study time will only increase stress—and on a campus like Wesleyan, increased stress may actually increase drinking, not to mention hurt everyone’s grades,” Updegrove wrote in an email to The Argus. “Combating high-risk drinking, in my mind, entails things like providing [an] all-campus breakfast before Spring Fling and supporting non-alcoholic study breaks like the film series. I appreciate the efforts taken to improve student health, but I think we need to consider more creative solutions.”
Like members of the WSA, several students expressed opposition to the idea of eliminating a day separate from reading period devoted to Spring Fling.
“Spring Fling is a good release of tension right before finals season when students are really in need of it, and it would just create more tension if you made a day that should be devoted to relaxation and student bonding into a study day,” said Lizzy Clayton ’14. “It doesn’t make sense to force students to choose between going [to Spring Fling] and enjoying themselves or studying. That’s not fair of the University.”
Kyra Sutton ’13 echoed Clayton’s sentiments.
“I think that Wesleyan already has an atrociously limited number of days devoted to reading period as compared to many of its peer institutions,” Sutton said. “I’m not sure what compels the administration to make decisions like these, but I think they’re only keeping the academic success of students in mind if they make a decision that gives students more time to study and doesn’t put them in a position that forces them to choose between studying and an annual event that’s meant to be fun.”
In hopes of alerting students to the possibility of a change in the calendar, the WSA sent out an email on Thursday, Nov. 29 to the University community encouraging students to sign a petition opposing the decision and requesting a delay in the vote to allow for more discussion. The faculty vote is currently scheduled to take place on Tuesday.