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Vote NO on Semester Conversion

Semester conversion could have been win-win. It started with the hope that the University would follow the lead of the University of Cincinnati and use conversion as an opportunity to "rethink the University to the core." The Semester Conversion Task Force wrote a report that was true to that goal. But at the last minute most of the transformative material was stripped out. It has been downhill ever since.

The result is that if conversion proceeds, some elements of the University will get what they want—including Fall semesters that begin in August. The rest of us, faculty and students especially, will pay the price. The Associated Students board voted 11 to 2 to oppose conversion. It is now up to the faculty.

What price?
  • Many faculty will find themselves teaching 33% more students than they do now. Anyone who takes seriously the job of grading student assignments knows that increasing the grading load by 33% makes it virtually impossible to give students the individual attention they deserve. Faculty and students both lose.
  • Many faculty will find themselves with a 4-4 teaching schedule. That means juggling four simultaneous classes. This too makes it virtually impossible to do as good a job as we do now. To stay sane many faculty may feel forced to dumb-down their courses. Again, faculty and students both lose.

Don’t be mislead by the wording of the resolution. One of the bullet points "commits" the University to achieving a 3-3 teaching schedule—i.e., the sort of schedule we have now. (Is that really something to aspire to?) There is nothing behind that commitment. It has as much force as the New Year's resolutions many of us have already abandoned. If the administration were serious about a 3-3 teaching schedule, it would have taken the time to develop a credible plan for such a schedule before asking faculty to vote. Instead, when the President was invited to meet with the Senate to explain how he expected to implement the promises in the resolution—and where he would get the money given the current budget limitations—he flatly refused. He insisted that he would tell us nothing unless the Senate recommended conversion in advance. Of course by that time it would be too late.

This resolution and the process by which it was developed (even some of the amendments approved by the Senate were originally left out!) exacerbates the mistrust between faculty and administration. If you believe that the administration will consider your needs and concerns when implementing conversion, vote yes. If you see yourself as vulnerable to being run over by those wanting to push through semester conversion without regard for anyone else, stand with our students and protect yourself. Vote No on semester conversion.


Russ Abbott
Professor, Computer Science and
Writing Coordinator for the Semester Conversion Task Force