Revisions to academic calendar considered after faculty outcry

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Illustration of a calendar. Courtesy of Freepik.com.

The early start to the spring semester has been met with a negative response from faculty and students, prompting administration to revisit the 2021-2022 calendar, according to Dr. Lisa Aguilera Lawrenson, assistant superintendent/vice president of Instruction and Planning.

The Spring 2021 semester started on Jan. 11, as opposed to Jan. 21 in 2020. 

The decision to shorten the winter break left professors with less time to get courses for the spring semester up and running and burnt-out students with less time to recover from a stressful Fall 2020 semester.

Adriana Brogger, associate professor of radio and television, made the decision to work throughout the holidays to prepare content for her courses.

“I did this at the expense of spending time with my family and much needed time off,” Brogger said. “I know of many other faculty who made the same decision. Even still, it was not enough time and I did not start this semester feeling as confident in my courses as I could have.”

Brogger said she felt overwhelmed by her workload and managing time constraints.

“Not only do we have to prepare labs and lectures, but we also need to record them, edit them, caption them and organize them for students to access. Some of us feel like we just can’t catch up.”

Brogger said the biggest issue she has with the new academic calendar is that it gave faculty three days, counting the weekend, to get ready for the new semester.

“This is not enough time to prepare for a successful semester and it is not equitable for our students,” Brogger said. “My lived perspective is only as faculty but I have heard from staff, students, and even managers that this early start caused anxiety and stress. All of this against the backdrop of 2020. Many of us are running on fumes and cannot sustain another shortened break in 21-22.”

Student Vanesa Saldana agreed with Brogger that the break was too short.

“I would have liked the regular break just because I’m a full-time mom, student, and employee so I was enjoying a little bit of stress-free time,” Saldana said.

Student Isabel Sandoval said between a hectic holiday schedule and preparing for the spring semester, she didn’t have a chance to unwind.

“The two holiday weeks were so eventful anyways with people rushing for last-minute shopping,” Sandoval said. “I felt like I never really got to slow down before I was up and at it again.”

Lisa Stoddart, associate professor of nursing and president of the Academic Senate, said she opted to go on a vacation during the winter break.

“I tried to have everything done as quickly as I could prior, but when I came back, I felt like I was playing catch up,” Stoddart said. “That’s what I’ve heard from the majority of faculty members, that they didn’t have time to take a break. They either worked through their winter break, or the ones that did take the time off to decompress like myself, came back and felt like they had to play catch up.”

Stoddart said while she is concerned about how the new academic calendar has impacted faculty, she is equally concerned about how it has impacted students. She noted the 2021-2022 calendar follows the same pattern as the 2020-2021 calendar.

“I don’t want the college, and when I say the college, I’m talking about faculty, staff, and the students, to experience the same headaches that they did with this short break,” Stoddart said.

As president of the Academic Senate, Stoddart said she has listened to the concerns and feedback of faculty and students, and wants to make sure their voices are heard at the administrative level. She is asking for revisions to be made to the 2021-2022 calendar.

“I’m hoping we can come to an agreement that benefits the students, faculty, and the district,” Stoddart said. “We want people to succeed, we don’t want people to fail, and sometimes you need those breaks, especially during this time, to take a moment to step back and relax and get your bearings straight.”

The 2020-2021 academic calendar was developed in 2019 under a previous Delta College administration, according to Lawrenson. Lawrenson joined Delta College in July 2020.

“I understand and appreciate the concerns that have been raised, and have been meeting with faculty leadership to discuss the impact of the current calendar and examine possible changes to next year’s calendar,” Lawrenson said.                                                        

Lawrenson said the academic calendar is drafted and approved more than a year in advance to allow time for planning.

The 2020-2021 calendar “was first presented to the Academic Senate, where faculty expressed concern about the shorter length of the break between fall and spring semesters,” Lawrenson said.

Despite the concerns raised by faculty, the administration recommended approval of the calendar to the Board of Trustees on June 11, 2019, at which point the calendar was approved, according to Lawrenson.

“Although I was not involved in the rationale behind these decisions, my understanding is that the intention behind the shorter winter break was to move up the end of the spring semester, providing a break between Commencement and the start of the first set of summer classes,” Lawrenson said.

Lawrenson said the administration will make changes as needed for the next academic year.

“Like all of our faculty, staff, and administrators, I want the best way forward for our students and the college,” Lawrenson said.