Proposals for condensed Winter Term on the table


A document titled "A Proposal for Winter Term Changes and New Summer Programs" circulated to select faculty members this week, detailing ideas for a Winter Term condensed from a current three full weeks to two and for regular DePauw courses taught during the summer.
Larry Stimpert, vice president for academic affairs, said an updated copy of the document that reflects the material from the original draft will be sent to faculty members this weekend and will be discussed at the monthly faculty meeting Monday.
 "We don't have anything that we've decided that is perfect or that is final," he said in a phone interview Thursday night.
 The proposal suggests dropping the existing Winter Term requirement, paying faculty who teach the two-week courses a "flat stipend" and discontinuing the incentive for faculty of "banking" courses for year-long sabbaticals.
 Both drafts of the document say, "Incentives for Winter Term are lacking." For students, the required, but not graded classes do not generate enough incentive to work hard.
 For that reason, Stimpert said the proposed, shorter Winter Term would be an improvement.
 "Students should want to engage in activities," Stimpert said. "If they're great experiences, there shouldn't need to be a requirement to do it."
 The document also addresses lacking incentives for faculty members with respect to Winter Term teaching and trip leading.
 "Faculty members see Winter Term teaching as either an unattractive obligation or as a means to work toward a full-year sabbatical," the document says.
 Stimpert said motivation by obligation for faculty members hardly seemed likely a good enough reason to continue the tradition.
 "We're obviously willing to compensate, but we shouldn't say they have to do them," he said. "That's bad motivation for doing anything."
 While past "banked" time would still transfer for professors working toward sabbaticals, guiding future trips or teaching classes would not. Instead, the document said the committee members advocating the change, "anticipate offering additional opportunities for faculty members to obtain full-year sabbaticals through grant-writing, opportunities offered by consortium partners and possibly by teaching extra courses if the university moves to a five-course teaching load."
 The document mentioned another reason for condensingthe length of Winter Term in that students taking shorter, more intensive classes "should also have fewer reasons for engaging in unhealthy behaviors."
When asked about such "unhealthy behaviors"  Stimpert said he heard word among faculty and staff in his first months at DePauw about excessive drinking that occurs during Winter Term.
 "I had faculty members describe it to me as a ticking time bomb," he said. "More than one said a student could die from this."
 With a lack of activities and responsibilities, Stimpert said students might feel more compelled to consume alcohol.
 Stimpert also saw a problem in the current structure of Winter Term because it creates a barrier to some students who need financial aid, but may not always be eligible to receive the same percentage they get on tuition. 
While the new Winter Term courses would not be tuition payments, but rather payments for expenses incurred for trips or for taking a designated class, summer programs would be more like regular tuition classes. The summer classes would then offer an opportunity for financial aid distribution, and potentially greater access for students.
The two month-long summer modules could count for graduation credits and faculty would be paid a flat rate per course. The month-long sections may also allow for language instruction courses domestically or internationally as well as geological digs in the Grand Canyon or other exploratory trips. Summer courses would be optional.
The documents mention the potential for summer courses to charge tuition and fees, bringing in additional revenue that could augment DePauw's operating budget.
Stimpert said the addition to the operating budget would be welcome and that having warm bodies on campus during summer months would attract more prospective students.
"Campus is essentially dead in the summer," Stimpert said.
The document mentioned opportunities for high school students and incoming first-year students to enroll in summer courses along with current DePauw students.
"Some of these opportunities would target high school students, teachers and guidance counselors, all with the aim of enhancing DePauw's recruiting and admissions effectiveness," the document says.
Stimpert, formerly a professor of economics and business at Colorado College, said some of his ideas for the proposal stemmed from the Block System at Colorado in which students take one course at a time.
He said the proposal is a starting point and that over the month of October he will hold meetings at which he hopes students and faculty will contribute ideas about the possible changes.