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Faculty Senate rejects May Term, Drake considers overload fee

Photo by Olivia Klassen | Staff Photographer

Update 4/13: Provost Mattison said in an email to student senate that starting in January Term 2024, students who take over 18 credits between J-Term and spring semester will be charged an overload fee. She said in faculty senate that J-Term 2024 will be attached to spring semester.

Additionally, Mattison said there will be blanket waivers of the fee for PharmD students and students who take music ensembles as part of a scholarship or commitment to Drake. She encouraged faculty to make Drake aware of academic situations that would require students to pay the fee.

Drake University’s faculty senate voted down a proposal that would move January Term to May during its Feb. 16 meeting. Faculty senate president Matthew Zwier said he has not heard of any further interest in investigating the proposal. 

“I mean, as the vote showed, the majority of faculty senate believes strongly that J-Term is effective as it is, and that to move it to May would likely be of harm to the educational mission of Drake University,” Zwier said. “And the no vote was the procedural way of saying that those people who voted no felt so strongly about this that we would rather just vote it down, rather than put it on the table and begin an investigation to see if this could be a good idea.”

No faculty senators voted in favor of the proposal, although some abstained. Comments from faculty members and a report from Drake’s student senate suggested that student and faculty feedback to the proposal has been generally negative. 

Some students might be charged new overload fees for next January Term

One of Drake provost Sue Mattison’s key reasons for bringing this proposal forward was that moving to May would keep some January Term students from potentially being charged new fees for going over 18 credit hours with their J-Term course. 

Mattison has explained that this is because the proposed May Term would have been counted as separate from spring semester, in contrast to January Term. She said the reason J–Term credits are counted with spring term “has to do with how financial aid is counted.” 

“I would say that when J-Term was initiated, the issue of spring overload wasn’t considered and so no one made any changes to the IT system to take that into account,” Mattison said. “And then this year, it was recognized that that had been the case and so to correct that.”

Drake has not yet made a final decision on how to address this issue, according to Mattison. She said that she will meet with Drake president Marty Martin and chief financial officer Adam Voigts on March 1 to discuss the next step. 

According to Mattison, the overload fee is about $1,100 for each credit. Therefore, if Drake were to begin charging these overload fees to these students, a student who takes 16 or more credits in spring semester and a J-Term will begin to pay about $1,100 per each credit over 18. 

“And so, you know, it would be a semester if for J-Term, for it to be without that overload fee, it would be a spring semester when they were taking 15 credits, and then it is no cost,” Mattison said. 

In 2022, about 36 percent of Drake students who took a January Term took 18.5 or more credits across spring semester and J-Term, according to a report prepared by Drake registrar Jennifer Tran-Johnson and shared by Mattison. Mattison said that if the overload fees are assessed next year, that will likely impact how students use J-Term. 

Mattison said that P1 and P2 pharmacy students are required to take more than 17 credit hours. In 2022, about 82 percent of pharmacy students who took a January Term took over 18 credits between January and spring terms, according to Tran-Johnson’s report. 

‘Having the long break over December/January is vital for students’

At the faculty senate meeting, student body president Morgan Coleman presented a report from the student senate with student feedback on the May Term proposal, which was based on the opinions of 40 students. 

The report concluded that 33 students who submitted a virtual form indicated that they opposed the proposal, while one suggested their support. It also said that the in-person focus groups also indicated a lack of support for the proposal.

“Because a number of [faculty] senators said that they could not vote in good conscience, and I fully agree, without understanding what the student perspective was, as soon as the student perspective came in, the book was closed on their decision,” Zwier said. “At least at this point in time.”

Many students who gave feedback preferred the timing and break between semesters offered by January Term. Some expressed concerns that a May Term wouldn’t line up well with their rental agreements or job opportunities, or that it wouldn’t attract as many students. Some students disagreed with the idea that Drake should switch to a May Term because of COVID-19 or were skeptical that such a move would limit the spread of the virus.  

“Having the long break over December/January is vital for students because burnout is real, especially at Drake with the Drake Busy mentality,” one student wrote in the form. “Also, many people have accepted summer jobs that start in May.”

During the Feb. 16 faculty senate meeting, faculty members raised questions over why this financial planning issue was tied to May Term and whether beginning to charge these overload fees would be consistent with how J-Term has been marketed. 

A faculty senator said in an interview that he was very disappointed that Provost Mattison declined to answer the question of why January Term could not be made its own academic term during the faculty senate meeting.  

“That eroded quite a bit of trust among the faculty for supporting this proposal,” said the senator, who asked to remain anonymous.

Zwier said that most senators were very hesitant to support the proposal with “insufficient information on a tight timeline.”

“A lot of these things are about the details that we don’t have time to dig into—which is precisely why many are against this proposal,” associate education professor Matt Hayden said in a chat message during the meeting, which took place on Zoom. 

This article has been corrected to reflect that, according to the registrar’s report, 82 percent of pharmacy students who took a January Term in 2022 took over 18 credits between January and spring terms, not 82 percent of all pharmacy students. It has also been corrected to reflect that a faculty senator said he was very disappointed with Provost Mattison declining to answer the question of why January Term could not be made its own academic term, rather than not answering the question. A sentence that implied that January Term would be made its own academic term has been corrected to be consistent with the rest of the article.

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