DePauw faculty raises questions about Winter Term

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 Proposed changes to Winter Term have been in the air since the 2013 fall semester.
A 10 page document, compiled by members of the Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (CAPP), details what changes would be made to graduation requirements, faculty teaching requirements, and what exactly the faculty will be voting on in their meeting Monday. Two separate faculty forums were held Wednesday and Thursday to give faculty members the opportunity to discuss the document.
As it currently stands, students are required to complete three Winter Term experiences. The new system outlined in CAPP’s proposal would instead mandate two Extended Studies (ES), for each student, one of which would be required to be completed during a Winter or May Term. Internships and off-campus study are both examples of what would constitute an ES requirement fulfillment.
CAPP’s proposal indicates that Winter Term courses would be worth half of an academic credit as well as an ES credit, instead of counting only towards the Winter Term requirements as it is now.
Professor of communication and theatre Jonathon Nichols-Pethick raised a question in regards to the idea of credit-bearing Winter Term courses, which would require more structured class requirements.
“The last two Winter Term courses I’ve taught have been much more experimental in terms of my approach, and I don’t want to grade them,” he said. “I don’t think they need it, and I don’t want to see that change.”
The earlier proposed possibility of a $5,000 stipend granted to DePauw students on admission that could then be used to lessen the financial burden when completing these proposed Extended Studies was also discussed.
“[The stipend] idea was floated, but that didn’t survive budgetary scrutiny. I wouldn’t say it’s off the table, but it can’t happen next year,” Stimpert said.
Faculty also discussed the move towards voluntary participation in Winter Term teaching for faculty members, and how that would affect the number of required Winter Terms.
“There is a risk that all faculty on campus say, ‘woohoo, I’m not doing Winter Term this semester,’ and then we have students in a bind who are unable to meet this requirement,” Brockman said.
Because of this fear, the ultimate decision was made to only require one ES to take place during Winter or May Term. However, other faculty members worry about voluntary faculty participation for other reasons.
“The logic, ‘I don’t want to do it, so eliminate it,’ didn’t follow for me,” said David Worthington, professor of communication and theatre.
Professor of art and art history Ann Harris also expressed mixed feelings about the move towards making faculty teach Winter Terms voluntary.
“I like the voluntary because now you get the kind of support that you need, and now you can teach the kind of class that you want,” she said. “I’m uneasy about the voluntary side, but I like the goodwill in it.”
The point was also raised that while teaching Winter Term courses would now be voluntary, there would be no change made to the faculty’s current compensation.
The two forums Wednesday and Thursday provided the opportunity to discuss these concerns, but some are worried that isn’t enough.
“[I] got this document Monday morning. That gives me a week to read it, and think about it before we vote on it. And I am exceedingly uncomfortable with that,” said Kevin Kinney, professor of biology. “I actually read things before I vote on them, which may make me a minority in the US, I don’t know. But right now, I cannot support a document that I haven’t read.”
The ultimate decision will be made in two motions at the Monday faculty meeting. According to Stimpert, the first vote will be on whether or not to change graduation requirements from the current three Winter Terms system, to two Extended Studies. The second motion would decide whether one of those two Extended Studies has to occur during a Winter or May Term. The faculty can also initiate a procedure to push voting back until the February faculty meeting.
“Basically it’s a vote of confidence, no confidence,” Brockman said. “Do you want us to continue to do the work, or do you want us to stop now?”