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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Columbian College delays 4×4 vote

The Columbian College voted Friday to indefinitely postpone a vote on the four-by-four plan and review their curriculum with the incoming administration of University President-elect Steven Knapp.

Administrators and faculty expressed skepticism about the future of the four-by-four plan, seeing the vote as a rejection of the system, but one that leaves space for Knapp to make decisions about the best path for the University to take to reform academics.

“We need to look at the problems and the solutions to the problems. It (the resolution) is neutral about whether the four-by-four is actually the solution,” said Diana Lipscomb, the interim dean of the Columbian College.

“What we want is for (Knapp) to be free to tell us what our concerns should be,” Lipscomb said. “We want him to be free to set the agenda and prioritize things the way he thinks they should be prioritized.”

In a four-by-four curricular structure, students would take four four-credit classes a semester rather than taking five three-credit classes.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the resolution to postpone the vote is a sign of the faculty’s unwillingness to reconsider the curriculum. The four-by-four, which Trachtenberg proposed, has been studied twice before, in 1992 and 2003, and was rejected both times.

“The four-by-four is a metaphor – it’s a metaphor for the recognition of change and innovation,” Trachtenberg said. “I think they are all delaying tactics by people who are afraid of change. Sometimes not to change means that things are going to change around you.”

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman instructed each of the schools to vote on the four-by-four by mid-April.

The Columbian College, GW’s largest of its individual schools, is the first school to vote on the four-by-four. The Elliott School is set to take a vote on April 13. Representatives from the business school and the engineering school said their schools have not yet set a date to vote on the four-by-four.

The unanimous resolution to postpone the vote states that it would be premature to vote on the four-by-four before the new dean of the Columbian College and the new University President take charge.

While the vote does not shut out the possibly of the school adopting the four-by-four, it is not likely that it will be considered again in the near future, said economics professor Donald Parsons. He said the four-by-four will only be reconsidered if Knapp turns out to be a “zealous advocate” of the switch.

“If it turns out that he’s fairly neutral about it, then it will be dead,” Parsons said.

In February, the Faculty Senate passed a similar resolution recommending that the schools should not adopt a four-by-four model at this time and that they should begin to review their curriculums under the presidency of Knapp, which will begin August 1. Parsons described these forward-looking resolutions as signs of discontent with the academic initiatives of Trachtenberg and Lehman.

But others said this resolution may signal the coming of curricular reform, including a reexamination of the general curriculum requirements in the Columbian College.

“If the discussion of the four-by-four, which many people seem to approve, has prompted a discussion of curricular review, then it was a success,” physics professor Gerald Feldman said.

Trachtenberg said of the four-by-four, “I think it’s a terrific idea, but it’s not my problem anymore.”

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