By Alicia Nierenstein
Flagler College is currently in discussions that could result in longer semesters by the 2008-2009 school year.
While there has been talk of semester extension amongst the faculty and administration for a few years, Flagler had found that after comparison to other peer institutions, such as the University of Florida, Stetson University and Rollins College, Flagler has come out as the school with the shortest semesters in the entire state of Florida. Other schools typically end in the very last week of April, or the beginning weeks of May.
These shortened semesters have proven to be sufficient according to Dean of Academic Affairs, Paula Miller.
“For 34 years we have used the same academic calendar, and based on our successful graduates, it has provided adequate time,” Miller said.
However, Miller also said that the proposed extension could provide students with more opportunities to learn, attend and participate in their classes.
“More class time would allow additional opportunities for all of our students to become involved in class discussions, assure reflection time on an assignment, additional time to complete a challenging project, more time for discussing a topic with other students and faculty members and for learning,” she said.
“As for our faculty, an extended semester would provide more classes and opportunities to teach the students, additional time to explain a difficult concept; perhaps time to encourage all students to participate in a special class activity or to discuss additional topics that would enhance student learning,” Miller added.
Associate professor of political science Art Vanden Houten agrees, and said that the extension could be beneficial for both students and faculty.
“I am absolutely for the extension because aspiring towards excellence requires longer semesters,” he said. “We would not necessarily add more material, but it would allow for longer review time.”
Flagler’s faculty held a meeting on the issue on March 6.
The decision to extend the semesters is not one that can be made overnight. The idea was initially presented at the full-time faculty meeting at the beginning of the spring semester. It was then presented at department chair meetings.
From there, it gets passed along to the curriculum committee where, if approved, it would be sent to Miller, and if approved, then to the college president’s cabinet. The cabinet then makes a recommendation to the president. If approved by the president, some topics must be presented to the Educational Policy Committee of the Board of Trustees, and finally if a particular topic or idea is strongly supported, it is presented to the actual Board of Trustees and a decision is made.
According to the Flagler College President William T. Abare, Jr., the details of Thanksgiving, winter vacation and spring break are still trying to be sorted out.
“With this change, we could possibly lengthen Thanksgiving or spring break, but in effect, we would be adding two weeks to the semester instead of one, because the extra time that we take for vacation is time that needs to be made up during the school year,” he said.
In addition to the time constraints, this change could bring about yet another rise in tuition costs for the school because it would involve keeping people around to run the dormitories, the dining facilities, as well as keep up the maintenance in the buildings.
Junior Matthew Laird said that a semester extension would be pointless.
“An extension would hinder us, because there is other stuff going on like the rise in tuition, the increase in students, and all of the construction,” he said.
However, some students believe that longer semesters would be appropriate.
“If it meant that we would have longer spring breaks, then I would be all for the extension,” freshman Matt Sills said.
Abare said that although his personal thought is that it would be a good idea to extend the semester, he will be guided by the faculty first and by the students’ input second.
Although there is no specific date for this change, the process would take roughly a whole school year, and it would commence in this upcoming fall. If the extension is applied, the earliest we would see it would be during the 2008-2009 school year.