U of L could add two weeks to academic year in 2012

By on October 31, 2011

By Baylee Pulliam–
bpulliam@louisvillecardinal.com

The University of Louisville could potentially add two weeks’ worth of class time due to a change in accreditation requirements, The Louisville Cardinal has learned.

The new policy, issued by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, would hold the university to the U.S. Department of Education’s “definition of a credit hour,” said Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff of the Association, Tom Benberg.

U of L is the only public university in the state in non-compliance with the requirement.

The university currently operates on a 14-week semester schedule. Each academic unit, undergraduate and graduate, needs to have the equivalent of 15 weeks per semester in order to meet the Association’s requirement of 2,250 minutes of instructional time per three-hour course, per semester.

According to Student Government Association President Kurtis Frizzell, the university is likely “either going to add a week of classes [to each semester] or add five minutes to every class” in order to meet the requirement.

Other options include eliminating some days traditionally reserved for breaks, adding Saturday classes and adding additional coursework outside the classroom, said Vice Provost Dale Billingsley, but “we’re getting to the point where we have to make a decision.”

UPDATE: Provost has asked senior staff to draft a formal proposal recommending adding five minutes to classes.

Assistant University Provost in Institutional Research Connie Shumake said the new policy would likely take effect in fall of 2012. If there were any scheduling changes, the university would have to publish them as soon as possible to facilitate efficient class scheduling.

If the university added a calendar week, there might be issues because summer programs through the College of Nursing and the J.B. Speed School of Engineering “don’t have time for the extra days. Some of their summer classes start within a week of the end of spring classes,” said mechanical engineering graduate student and SGA Academic Vice President Jody Heil.

But if the university decided to add days, they wouldn’t have to be added as a unified week. “We don’t have to add them all at once, in one chunk,” said faculty senate vice chair and associate professor Joseph Steffen, in an Oct. 24 meeting to discuss the possible implementation of the policy.

In the meeting, professor Julia Dietrich, representing the College of Arts and Sciences said that among the 18 department chairs in her unit, there was “overwhelming support for adding days to the calendar,” instead of adding minutes to each course.

Among the academic unit representatives at the Oct. 24 meeting, roughly half were in favor of adding days. The other half voted in favor of adding minutes to each class.

But the added minutes “aren’t just a time issue,” Billingsley said. “It’s a space issue.” Were the university to choose to add five minutes to every class, there could be a shortage of classroom space.

The extended school day and “whether or not we’re making students and professors stay longer” could also be a problem, Heil said.

Representatives from the College of Education and Human Development noted that some of their graduate classes wouldn’t let out until well after 10 p.m. under the plan.

Some academic unit representatives said they opted to keep the university schedule as is, but Billingsley said that isn’t an option without making other adjustments, like adding out-of-class course work or research a requirement for students.

“It’s not like we want to do this,” Billingsley said. “Sometimes, you do things because you’re forced. We’ve tried to find a way to avoid it, but we sort of don’t have a choice.”

Photo: Nathan Gardener/The Louisville Cardinal

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