Officials review SGA proposal



Kate Carrubba

The Student Government Association is leading a push to extend the end-of-semester Reading Day from one to two days.

In a meeting between the SGA and the Academic Policy Committee on Jan. 29, Senators Robert Dormish and Brian Murray presented the SGA’s proposal for the extension.

The proposal featured comparisons to similar schools’ systems of final examinations and Reading Days, as well as a general survey of the student body’s reaction to the idea. The two also gave some scenarios for the implementation of the extra Reading Day, with two possibilities standing out.

The first possibility would eliminate the last day of final examinations and add an extra Reading Day at either the beginning or middle of final examinations week.

The length of final examinations would be reduced to two hours each, increasing the likelihood of students having two or three exams on the same day.

With this solution, exam week would end at the same time as usual despite the reduction in the number of examination days.

However, the SGA believes that the extra day, if located in the middle of the week, will compensate for the possibility of multiple examinations per day and improve student preparation in the long run.

A second choice is to shorten the period between the end of final examinations and the date when professors submit grades and use the extra day for Reading Day.

Dormish suggested the extra day could be placed in the middle of finals week in order to relieve stress on the students, as well as to provide ample time for faculty members to grade exams taken in the first few days of the examination period, which would significantly lessen their workload.

Dr. John Johannes, vice president for Academic Affairs and a member of the APC, pointed out that this solution could cause difficulties for faculty members, who would have one less day to calculate final grades.

It would also increase work for the Office of the Registrar, which in the spring must certify each student for graduation, as well as those eligible for certain honors, and in the fall has a tight deadline for reporting grades to the four colleges’ academic standing committees, which review student achievement at the end of the semester.

Johannes also provided some theoretical solutions, noting that every year the University Calendar Committee wrestles with these issues.

One solution would be to start each semester earlier, though that could lead to many problems of its own. For the spring term, the academic colleges would have less time to calculate students’ academic standing to be used for dismissals, a process which, allowing for student appeals and transfers, usually takes around two weeks, as well as less time to handle transfers between colleges.

Prior to the fall semester, the University transitions from its summer activities to the beginning of the academic year, providing time for the residence halls and other on-campus facilities to be repaired.

If the interim period were to be reduced, these necessities would not be fully accomplished.

Whichever solution is chosen will require careful reorganization of the University calendar, working around its specific requirements.

There are 14 weeks per semester, 12 of which must have five full days and one which is divided by a holiday (Thanksgiving or Easter).

Fall final examinations must be finished no later than Dec. 21 to allow students to get home for Christmas, and graduation must occur two Sundays before Memorial Day, with a senior week preceding. Midterm examinations must take place at an adequate time that allows enough time for the following advising period.

The ending dates of each semester are set first, and the rest of the calendar is built backward from there. ohannes described building the University calendar as “a simple matter of arithmetic,” in which the number of Reading Days is set by the calendar’s requirements.

Thus, according to Johannes, adding more reading days will require “changing the principles that guide calendar determination.”

The process for final approval and implementation of the SGA’s proposal is long and detailed.

The SGA, in conjunction with the Academic Policy Committee, must undertake more research on the number of students who would be affected by the proposed changes, as well as additional comparison data with other universities.

At the same time, the Office of the Registrar must deal with the logistical issues related to the massive rescheduling, such as making sure there are enough classrooms available to accommodate multiple class sections taking simultaneous final examinations.

SGA members say they hope to have this extra data by the end of February when the next APC meeting will take place.Should a solution prove to be suitable, the Academic Calendar Committee and the APC must approve the change to the calendar.

The academic calendar process is a four-year approval cycle, in which the calendar for the next three years has already been approved and the one for the fourth year remains at tentative approval. However, in theory, the change could be implemented in the academic year following the decision by the APC.

The SGA cited three reasons for its proposal to extend Reading Day. Dormish and Murray said that the primary reason was the concern of the students and their desire for an extra Reading Day.

They described the second reason as a counter to the backlog of tests and papers in the week preceding finals. And third, the SGA’s research has shown that Villanova’s final examination system falls below that of similar schools when compared with both the average and the number of Reading Days.

Johannes described the SGA’s report as a “fabulous presentation,” and Murray found that the APC was “very receptive” to the proposed changes. Dormish and Murray also presented their proposal to the Faculty Congress, which liked the idea as well but wanted to see more research.

The idea of two Reading Days per semester is not a new one. Johannes said that the topic has been raised in every one of his 13 years at Villanova. The University calendar formerly featured two Reading Days, but a conflict with the 14-week schedule, as well as with the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Labor Day as University holidays, forced the University to reduce the number.