Drake University is taking small steps toward a January term, but the idea is far from being finalized. Due to the controversial nature of the proposition, many faculty members have yet to hop on board.
January term, more commonly known as J-term, is a period between the fall and spring semesters when students could take classes on campus. The proposed J-term would be three weeks long and allow students to take one three-credit hour course.
After a unanimous vote in favor of the proposal in the Student Senate, it was then brought to the Faculty Senate for further discussion. The senators exchanged opinions and ideas at an open forum on Tuesday night. Student Body President Samantha Haas expressed Student Senate’s enthusiasm and dedication to passing the bill.
“The Student Senate decision was that the inherent benefits would override the risks involved,” Haas said at the meeting between students, faculty and the two senates.
Student Senate stated that as a whole, the student body is generally in favor of a J-term. Senators mainly stressed that a J-term would be an opening in the busy schedules of Drake students.
“A J-term would provide an opportunity for majors that are strictly regimented,” Sen. Dana Hansen said.
Students in majors with rigid schedules, such as actuarial science and pharmacy, could study abroad during the three-week period instead of during a regular semester. Summer study abroad programs are offered to those who cannot make time during the year, but financial aid does not usually apply to such programs. Also, summer months are a common time for students to get internships and gain experience in their future career fields.
The J-term could be used for research, independent study projects and experiential learning opportunities, said Haas.
The lack of detailed logistics behind the plan has prevented its approval from faculty and administration. The Faculty Senate discussed J-term in two of its meetings, but it is still debating the effects it may have on the university as a whole.
Numerous conflicts have been acknowledged, especially the major “deal breakers,” as the Faculty Senate referred to them. Some deal breakers may cause professors a lack of interest in teaching a J-term course. Faculty members stated that incentives may ensure widespread participation.
Fall and spring semesters would be shortened from 16 to 15 weeks if the J-term plan is passed. Faculty is specifically concerned about the financial changes that may result from implementation of a J-term. Financial aid may be affected greatly, although official number estimates are not yet available.
Aside from student costs, the university faces potential financial roadblocks. Campus facilities such as residence halls, classrooms, health and counseling services, Cowles Library, the Bell Center, the Knapp Center and general campus maintenance would all require funding throughout the month as well.
According to a report by the Faculty Senate’s January Term Working Group:“When? these? additional? costs? for ?instruction ?and? other ?items ?are? added? up…Thus, it ?might ?be ?necessary ?to ?raise ?overall ?tuition ?by ?an ?additional ?amount ?beyond? what is ?already ?planned, for ?one ?year.”
Faculty members expressing unease with the proposal stated that it needed more concrete details. Amy Vaughan, an associate professor of practice in statistics at Drake, spoke in favor of J-term at Tuesday’s session, but said that specifics need to be sorted out first.
“We like the spirit, but we’re concerned about the details of it,” said Vaughan.
If the logistics of the proposal become too complicated or irresolvable, the J-term plan may be delayed further.
Given the vast benefits of a J-term, the Student Senate is working with the Faculty Senate to pass the plan. Senators are passionate about offering Drake students more opportunities to be better global citizens, as the university mission statement urges students to be.
“January term is something that provides students so many opportunities that they don’t already have,” said Haas.