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Is J-term too daunting of a task?

Photo: File Photo

The possibility of a January term for Drake students hasn’t been turned down, but the details needed for Faculty-Senate to make a decision aren’t ironed out yet.

In a town hall type meeting Tuesday night, student senators, faculty senators, faculty members and students all weighed in on the issue, coming to no conclusion other than the need for a detailed plan.

The positives of J-term mentioned included study abroad opportunities, internships, research or experiential learning opportunities. Taking one-month classes also would allow students to lighten their loads other semesters.

“A lot of us want opportunities to go abroad, and maybe in our course of study, that’s not an option,” said Samantha Haas, student body president. “Students are seeking out these opportunities … Maybe there’s an independent study project that people wanted to do.”

There are many logistical issues with creating a J-term. The largest questions are what the cost will be, how to make housing options available, how it will affect financial aid, how to tweak the calendar and who gets to participate.

“We like the spirit, but we want to know how it’s going to happen,” said Natalie Adkins, assistant professor of marketing.

Multiple faculty members were concerned that the administration would create a plan that bound professors to responsibilities they didn’t agree to.

“I personally feel like we’re being asked to sign a contract that’s being written in invisible ink,” said Amy Vaughan, assistant professor of statistics.
Kayleigh Koester, fine arts student senator, brought up the idea of having faculty create a list of non-conditionals, things important to them that should be considered by the administration in the creation of any J-term plan. “Even if you can’t post-approve it, at least you can give it a direction,” she said.

Adkins and Vaughan were concerned about faculty course loads and if adjunct professors would have to be hired to pick up the slack if professors had to teach a January class and give up a spring semester class. Both were worried professors would have to give up teaching upper-level classes, only to have them taught by less-qualified adjunct professors. Vaughan said having too many adjunct professors messes with accreditation requirements.

“I think, for me, that’d be a deal breaker,” Vaughan said.

Klaus Bartschat, professor of physics and president of faculty senate, thought faculty members were making statements that were “factually questionable.”

“They simply say, ‘It won’t work, boom, done,’” Bartschat said.

Zac Pace broke into the discussion saying he wanted everyone to look at the opportunities a J-term brings.

“I don’t think this is being approached in a positive manner and that’s unsettling for me,” he said.

Bartschat said he wanted Drake to try a J-term.

“If you want to try it, let it go,” Bartschat said. “If it becomes a total disaster, then Faculty Senate can say ‘No more J-term.’”

Koester agreed, wanting to start with a J-term that minimizes risks with options such as not opening the residence halls to curb costs.

“There’s a bunch of risks and a bunch of rewards,” she said. “Let’s do all of those things on small scales and let’s try it.”

Eric Ferring disagreed with many of the students at the meeting, being the one of the first to say that not all students want a J-term. He also said that if it isn’t feasible for certain schools to give J-term classes, then it would separate the schools even more.

“There are a very large amount of students who aren’t for it,” he said. “Half the people want a longer break. I don’t think that students understand all of the logistics.”

The meeting didn’t come to any conclusion besides consensus that a committee needed to be formed to research how peer institutions run J-terms and to figure out the details.

“This is so frustrating because we want this so bad, but we can’t do anything,” Koester said.

“I think it’s very risky and very naive to think that things are just going to work out later,” Vaughan said. “Make a plan. Don’t ask us to commit to details that you don’t reveal to us.”

What they said:

“There’s a bunch of risks and a bunch of rewards.”
Kayleigh Koester, Fine Arts Student Senator

“I think it’s very risky and very naive to think that things are just going to work out later. Make a plan. Don’t ask us to commit to details that you don’t reveal to us.”
Amy Vaughan, Assistant Professor of Practice in Statistics

“A lot of us want opportunities to go abroad, and maybe in our course of study, that’s not an option.”
Samantha Haas, Student Senate President

“We like the spirit, but we want to know how it’s going to happen.”
Natalie Adkins, Assistant Professor of Marketing

“This issue of who will teach what and when, is a pretty big deal.”
Renee Cramer, Director of Law, Politics and Society

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