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How do students and teachers feel about the semester switch? What are some of the benefits? What are some of the losses? We all knew with the semester transition there were going to be pros and cons. Now it’s time to examine the early results.
One thing is certain about the move from quarters to semesters: Prin is falling in line with the national norm. According to The University of Chicago, 80 percent of this country’s colleges are on the semester system.
But what happens when a school that has always operated under a quarter system joins the mainstream, and does so rather rapidly? In many ways, things change for the better. School breaks are scheduled more conveniently and everybody has the possibility of more free time. And despite the disruption of a change of this magnitude, the system will undoubtedly become second nature over time.
Although there’s been some grumbling about the change, many community members see the value in the new semester system. Sam Nickell, a junior at Principia, said that, overall, he likes the school’s decision to switch. “Although I like the switch, I definitely have noticed a lack of free time in my schedule,” said Nickell. “I feel since we have shorter classes, the teachers assign more homework. With five classes, it makes my nights pretty busy with work. However, I am taking some tough classes, and I feel like homework will start to become less time-consuming and I’ll have more free time.” Overall, Nickell feels that problems with academics will smooth out in the long run and the switch will prove to be a success.
With every new thing comes drawbacks and kinks that need to be worked out. Kevin Hagenlocher, a junior at Principia, is one of many affected by the difficult lunch schedule. “On Wednesday and Friday I cannot eat lunch in the dining room, so I have to eat in the pub after my class at two o’clock,” said Hagenlocher. “This inconvenience makes me eat before practice at a time that I probably shouldn’t, and since we can’t eat in the classrooms, this is the only time I can eat.” Hagenlocher is not the only one with this problem. The Principia administration realizes the lunch schedule is a problem and they are actively working to provide solutions, but completely restructuring the schedule this semester is likely not an option.
The new Student Senate organized an informal Q&A meeting about semesters during lunch Monday of week three. They plan to host several others thoughout the term. Student Body President Christian Richardson felt the gathering went well. “We received a lot of good feedback from the students and we have a good idea of where we want to go from here,” said Richardson.
In terms of the daily academic load, there’s still a lot to process. Students have gone from taking three classes a quarter to five classes a semester. Some may argue that this gives students more homework while others say they actually feel less busy. However, teachers also have more classes to think about. Johnathan Langton, a physics professor at Principia College, went from teaching two classes to three at the time of the switch. “The switch is different for all of us, but when you get down to it, school is school. You still learn and teach the same way,” said Langton. “It is just something we all need to get used to.” Langton is conscious of the fact that his students are most likely taking four to five classes, potentially more. “When I assign homework I have it due less often because I can spread it out over the course of 15 weeks instead of 10,” said Langton. “So if anything, it is a little gentler pace.”
Teachers and students are the two groups that are most directly affected by the transition. However, resident counselors have noticed some changes as well. Connie Crandell, the resident counselor in Sylvester house, said she has felt that the house is emptier during daily “Quiet Time.” “Since we only have a 20-minute slot for Quiet Time three days a week, students just seem to stay where they are so they can make it to their class on time,” said Crandell. She understands the reasoning, but feels it would be nice if students had enough time to come back to their houses for metaphysical study.
No one seems particularly surprised that with a transition of this scope there are necessary adjustments. It is clear some of the initial difficulties are being examined with an eye toward correction.