Mount Allison University’s senate approved a revised academic schedule Wednesday in the wake of a three-week long faculty strike. The new schedule was popular among faculty senators, but student senators were deeply disappointed that the decision did not include more days of instruction.
Under the new schedule, classes will end on April 11, reading week will be preserved, and the exam period will stretch from April 14-24. The drop date for classes will be March 28.
Faculty senator Andrew Nurse proposed the revised schedule, which was a merger of two options presented to Senate by the registrar’s office. It was born of concerns about the length of the exam period, and the short time frame faculty would have to mark exams.
On the Senate floor, Nurse described his amendment as “not perfect” and a compromise. A substantial majority of faculty senators voted in favour of the amended schedule.
All six student senators voted against the amendment and the final schedule, expressing great disappointment on the senate floor. They supported one of the registrar’s options, which would have extended classes until April 14, and involved a six-day exam period of two-hour exams from April 21 to 27. They considered the changes an unfriendly amendment, because of the loss of class time.
The option supported by the student senators would have given faculty forty-eight hours to submit grades for graduating students following the exam period. Faculty will have four days to mark the work of graduating students under the new schedule. Three-hour exams will still be allowed.
Classes were previously scheduled to end on April 8. As a result of the recent strike and the revised schedule, students will have lost twelve days of classes.
“The student senators are disappointed that the members of senate couldn’t recognize our efforts to preserve whatever instructional days are left in the semester,” said Mount Allison Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Affairs Ryan Harley in an interview with The Argosy following the vote.
Asked if the new schedule had any positive elements, Harley said, “The new schedule does maintain a relatively a accommodating end of class time and beginning of exam time.” He continued, “However, we did not think it was in the best interests of students to vote for a calendar that essentially cancelled an additional week of classes.”
On the senate floor Harley explained that student senators had begun drafting their own proposal, and during that process the registrar’s options were made available. “We came to the realization that what we were working towards looked a lot like one of the registrar’s proposals.”
“We had a fairly extensive consultation process in which all things were considered [both before and after receiving the registrar’s options,]” Harley said.
Student senators organized a town hall meeting on Feb. 17 in order to gauge student opinion on the rescheduling of the semester. Approximately fifty students gathered, and overwhelmingly supported one of the registrar’s proposals. Many students were particularly upset about the possibility of Saturday classes. While the possibility of modifications to the existing options was mentioned, no alternatives or modifications were proposed.
In a post-vote interview withThe Argosy, Nurse said he was interested in reaching a compromise between the two options laid out by the registrar. “What I was looking to do was to create a debate, to create a discussion in Senate,” he said.
Nurse applauded the student senators for their stand, and suggested the differences in opinion may have been a result of process, given that the student senators stuck to the options laid out by the registrar.
Nurse said he felt having a six-day exam period of two-hour exams would have been problematic, and he wanted to allow for a more accommodating and flexible exam schedule.
“I was thinking […], why not create a situation […] where there’s a degree of flexibility. Where pedagogical principles drive the type of exam you have, as opposed to a constraint on time,” Nurse said.
Nurse said he also felt that having a two-day marking period for professors to grade graduating students would not have been ideal for careful assessment of student work.
University Provost and Vice-President Academic Karen Grant cited student involvement as a reason reading week was retained: “At Mount Allison there is a very strong conviction that students learn not just in the classroom, but also outside the classroom.” She specifically mentioned the Global Brigades trip, as well as a rare opportunity for out of province students to go home.
The two original proposals were put together by the registrar’s office. The Registrar’s options were then presented to senior administrators. Grant said President Robert Campbell, herself, and Vice-President International and Students Affairs Ron Byrne looked over the revised schedules, which were later sent to senators prior to the meeting.
Option A involved five Saturday classes, beginning immediately after reading week. The scheduling specifics were very similar to the selected timetable. This option would have allowed for 55 teaching days because of the Saturday classes. This option was not popular in senate, with some members suggesting it was not a realistic option.
Option B involved no Saturday classes, but had a much shorter exam period. The last day of classes would have been Thursday, April 17, and exams would have been from April 21-27, with four two hours exam slots daily. This option included 54 teaching days, and was supported by the student senators.