Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) staged a demonstration outside of Monday’s faculty meeting in Daggett Lounge, urging the faculty to motion for changes to next year’s academic schedule. The faculty inside refrained from making any such motion, and instead formed a committee to look into possible changes to the fall semester calendar.
Approximately fifty students participated in the demonstration. They engaged faculty in conversation as they arrived, and distributed a letter written by the BSG Assembly. The letter advocated shifting back the start of Orientation, as well as extending Thanksgiving break to a full week.
Both of these proposals have been considered by the faculty in the past. Last December, the faculty rejected a proposal that would have extended Thanksgiving break and shortened Fall Break by one day.
This fall, the Office of Student Affairs introduced a plan to modify Orientation in several ways, including starting it on a weekend and extending it by a day. The academic year would begin two days earlier, on a Tuesday rather than a Thursday.
Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster argued that the new schedule would better accommodate families, who could drive up on the weekend, rather than during the work week. He also said it would make Orientation and the Phase II registration process less hectic for first years.
Members of the faculty, whose criticisms included the loss of summer research time, rejected this proposal, with many of them wishing that the fall academic calendar could be evaluated holistically, rather than in a piecemeal fashion.
BSG’s proposed motion did consider the semester in a holistic manner, combining aspects from last year’s Thanksgiving plan and this year’s Orientation plan.
BSG’s letter to the faculty—distributed outside of Monday’s meeting—stated, “While both these proposals have failed separately in the past, we know that, coupled, the proposals present a benefit to our campus too large to be ignored, and we are here to ensure that they are not.”
BSG’s plan sought to combine the attractive aspects of both plans, by using the two days added to the start of the school year under the Orientation proposal as a way of allowing the addition of two days to Thanksgiving break; the amount of class days would remain the same.
According to BSG President Dani Chediak ’13, the demonstration was a success, since the faculty voted to form a committee evaluating the possibility of combining the Orientation and Thanksgiving proposals. According to Chediak, the very fact that the previously-rejected proposals were now back up for discussion was an accomplishment.
“Before, it was something that was brought up, reported on, and seen as something that wasn’t going to go further this year, and maybe be re-examined in a couple of years. Now it’s being re-examined this year, so we made it more of an issue that’s immediate and on the agenda—that could possibly happen in two years,” she said.
Most students at the demonstration were not shy about their support for the proposal.
“I wanted to show my solidarity with my classmates whose families may not have the means to move them in on weekdays or send them home for short breaks,” said Erica Hummel ’16.
Winston Antoine ’16 cited his dissatisfaction with the current Orientation schedule as his reason for supporting the changes.
“I hated Orientation,” he said. “It was so hectic; I never had time to relax.”
Donisha Thaxton ’14, voiced a common criticism of the proposed motion, arguing that students who cannot afford an extra plane ticket would be stuck on campus without a meal plan or other resources for nine days.
BSG members sought to address Thaxton’s criticism of the proposed motion at their meeting on Wednesday night.
“It’s something we should definitely address, but for me personally, I think that would be a step two,” said Chediak. “If extended, it wouldn’t be taking effect for another year; I think that would then be BSG’s mission to look at what things are in place for Thanksgiving and what can be done for the students that still can’t go home.”