Regents Chancellor Wants Academic Semesters Not Quarters

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Several of Ohio’s larger public universities schedule classes on the quarter system rather than the semester system. Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut says he wants a common academic calendar across the University system. That would mean quarters replaced by semesters.

Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati are in the minority because they operate on the quarter system. Changing to semester system has been discussed at OSU but never acted upon. On a recent edition of WOSU’s Open Line, Ohio State president Gordon Gee compared the conversion to planning the invasion of Normandy.

“We are going to take a very serious look,” Gee said. “In 1990 when I came I proposed moving from quarters to semesters and I still have the bites on my ankles about that. I think in today’s world it’s even more imperative. It does put us at a competitive disadvantage. It’s very difficult for our students to transfer in or out. The students get into the job market much later.”

It might be difficult but Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut is asking campuses to commit to operating on the semester system by 2010. Universities would have another seven years to make the conversion. The result Fingerhut says is a collaborative calendar that would make it easier for students to transfer to and from different institutions.

But some OSU faculty members are cautious about the change. Political Science professor Richard Gunther says the burden of work would be tremendous.

“Lectures would have to be rewritten; every faculty is going to have to meet incessantly to determine which courses are going to be eliminated,” Gunther says. “This is going to be, for a couple of years, something verging between hard work and chaos.

Chancellor Fingerhut says converting to the semester system has been talked about at various schools for years. Now he says it’s time to formulate plans and start working to fulfill them. He says it’s up to each university to cover the costs of implementing a semester system. That’s something that Gunther says is unfair.

“If the board of regents wants this change to take place then the board of regents really should be able to provide the extra subsidy to the universities to make that possible,” Gunther says. “Otherwise, it would be a tremendous fiscal hit.”

The president of Ohio University, Roderick McDavis says his institution would “weigh the issues before making any decision about abandoning the current system of quarters.”

In Columbus, Ohio State student Emily Ellis said she sees both sides of the debate.

“I can understand the fact that they want to make it accessible for community college students to transfer,” Ellis says. “That’s completely reasonable. But I do like the ten-week cycle. It seems like it naturally ends well.”

The standardized semester system is part of the chancellor’s plan to get a quarter of a million new people enrolled in colleges and universities by 2017.

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