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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Staff editorial: The business of efficiency

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the idea for 14-week trimesters came to him “like songs come to Paul Simon.” Trachtenberg’s proposal for a completely new academic calendar could increase GW’s efficiency and profitability but would seriously impact many areas of University life.

Trachtenberg’s proposal makes an important point. The current academic schedule is based on a pre-industrial atmosphere when students needed an extended summer break to work on the family farm. It is absurd that this system has existed this long – but it has, and not even Trachtenberg can change this.

The practicality of implementing a trimester system in a country based on semesters is daunting. Trachtenberg’s proposal is worth evaluation and open-minded critiquing, but the system should not be pushed through without serious consideration about the effects on faculty and students.

Understanding the desire for efficiency, GW is not a business nor should it be conducted like one. Any new scheduling system should foremost have a positive academic impact on students and faculty, not the University bank account.

Trachtenberg is attempting to address financial inefficiency. Residence halls and other University facilities are drastically underused over the summer and are nearing overflow capacity during the year – this is a bad business model. He envisions greater efficiency in the trimester system, which would spread a larger student body equally over three semesters and mean much more revenue for the University – as more students would be paying rent and tuition over the summer. It is a classic example of an MBA approach to higher education.

There is only one student on the committee to review this proposed system, and Trachtenberg said he does not see how students can have expertise on such an administrative issue. But the trimester system’s impact on student life could be its greatest effect and deserves proper representation on the committee.

The SA should set up a panel to inform its appointed committee representative of the position and attitude of the student body. The student representative should be prepared to explain concerns about effects on student life such as internship and job opportunities, vacation coordination with friends and family, financial impact on students, effects on athletes, etc.

The committee should seriously consider the effects on professors, as they do most of their research over the summer. It should also consider the simple logistics of such a system. In a circular three-semester system, when would Commencement or Colonial Inauguration take place? Could students go three trimesters in a row each year and graduate in three years? Will graduate schools adopt the same schedule?

The system has the potential of throwing the University out of sync with the rest of the higher-education world. The administration’s committee will either become a foundation for academic planning or pull the rug out from under the idea completely.

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