Rumors of change

Quarter versus semester system discussion concerning students

Audrey Oscarson and Kyle Morrison

Alongside chalk messages written around campus, posters like these were hung up and handed out to students. (Audrey Oscarson)

On the morning of April 7, students at Seattle Pacific University were greeted with chalk messages and posters around campus urging the school to stay on the quarter system and not switch to semesters. 

These symbols of dissatisfaction came in response to a recent report from the Academic Program Model Financial Stability Workgroup, recommending a change to the academic calendar for the financial and individual well being of the campus and its community members. 

This is not the first time that SPU has considered changing its academic calendar. In 2010, a change was considered as a way to enhance student learning, and in 1997, as a way to save money. Both times groups were formed to discuss the pros and cons of each system, yet both times a final decision was never made.

Associate professor of finance and member of the Academic Program Model Financial Stability Workgroup, Randy Beavers, voted in favor of recommending an academic calendar change. He is confused as to why many on campus have gotten so enraged about a recom

mendation that has not yet been implemented. 

“This recommendation would go to senior leadership of the University, possibly the board, so there’s no decision that has been made. It’s just a recommendation,” Beaver explained. “When word got out about this people immediately assumed that if it’s an academic calendar change, that must mean we are going from quarters to semesters and that’s not necessarily the case.”

Beavers explained that many different changes to the academic calendar have been discussed. While semesters have been on the table, so has the possibility of adding an extra week to spring break and keeping the rest of the schedule largely the same. 

Provost Laura Hartley released a statement explaining that the university is looking at many different proposals to ensure financial stability, but that nothing has been officially decided.

“Many ideas are currently being discussed and considered along these lines, including the possibility of an academic calendar change,” Hartley said. “A full proposal to change the academic calendar has not yet been discussed by either faculty or senior leadership and no decision has been made.”

Hartley also assured students that if this change did happen, it would not affect any current undergraduates.

“Should such a decision be made in the near future, the transition would be done carefully and on a timeline such that no student graduating in the next four years would be affected,” Hartley said.

First year ecology and honors major Gigi Griepp is concerned that the idea is even being discussed. She believes that quarters are much more beneficial to students.

“Personally, quarters are a huge part of why I love SPU and I think that’s something that sets it apart from many of the other schools I was looking at,” Griepp said. “When we started hearing that the board, or faculty, or admin or whoever it is has semesters in discussion – it’s just upsetting that they want to possibly change it without hearing from students first.”

Students have many reasons why they are opposed to switching to semesters. First-year student Oz Nardecchia is concerned that it will have a negative effect on students’ mental health.

“Generally in high school, you do the semester system and I remember absolutely hating it,” Nardecchia said. “It was especially detrimental to my mental health, and ever since coming to SPU even for just two quarters I’ve noticed it’s such an improvement.”

Suzanna Gill is also a first-year student who is opposed to switching to the semester system and urges students to speak up on the issue.

“Even if you’re not someone who this is going to affect by the time they implement it, just think of if it was going to be in effect, would you want them to be implementing it?” Gill asked.

Beavers has a different viewpoint. He believes that semesters offer a more rewarding and healthy college experience for both professors and students.

“I have taught and now learned under both a quarter and a semester system and I am here to tell you under our current academic calendar, for faculty with the quarter system, it’s very difficult,” Beavers said. “The week that you [undergraduates] are all off on spring break, faculty have to get grades in by Wednesday that week and then we have two days to prepare for our classes starting spring quarter.”

Beavers thinks switching to semesters will not only benefit the university financially, but the campus community as a whole.

“For faculty, the current system isn’t really a quarter system; it’s a fall quarter and then a 22 week marathon,” Beavers said. “So I’m not only looking at it from a financial sustainability perspective, but also from a care perspective.”

Ultimately, Beavers hopes that the SPU community can have a more productive dialogue on academic calendar issues going forward. 

“I don’t know why it was this specific situation and this specific recommendation, because there’s other working groups going on,” Beavers said. “It has turned into an us versus them thing and I don’t see it as helpful. I’m all about free speech, but I really wish there was better information about what was actually happening.”