Faculty Senate approves academic calendar, votes to keep distance education guideline

Greg Kane

Senate members narrowly defeated a motion to delete a controversial guideline in Sacramento State?s Distance Education Policy and struck down a proposal to alter when Spring Break is held in future semesters at the Faculty Senate meeting April 24.

While the proposal to move Spring Break to the eighth week of the semester in 2002 and 2003 was soundly defeated, the debate and subsequent vote over guideline 1.5 in the DEP was much closer. Senate members voted to keep the guideline, citing student access as its most important asset.

Senate Vice Chair Ted Lascher moved to delete the guideline, which states that any course that is a major requirement and is offered through distance education must have a traditional lecture alternative, from the policy. He said that with all the checks and balances a course must go through to be approved, it didn?t make any sense to add yet another to the mix.

“Why the heck do we also need an additional requirement that departments offer an alternative to the distance education mode?” Lascher said.

The guideline essentially places mistrust in the faculty and departments? ability to make the correct decision regarding students? access to courses, said senate member Ben Amata. He said the senate should collect more data on how difficult it would be for students to access a distance education course before any further discussion on the issue.

“I think it?s odd that we need another safety net so that we won?t have our students at a disadvantage,” Amata said.

The majority of the senators were in favor of keeping the guideline, however. Senate member Bonnie Raingruber said excluding 1.5 would deprive students who prefer traditional lecture courses from having a choice, and said it wouldn?t be acting in their best interest.

“There is nothing in the policy that requires asking the students what they want, but leaving 1.5 would give them a choice,” Raingruber said. “I think a sense of checks and balances is important.”

Statewide senate member Tom Krabacher, speaking on behalf of senate member Joan Bauerly, said that since distance education is still relatively new and untested, leaving the guideline in would insure that students are able to take the courses they need. He added that instructors could offer the two versions of a course in different semesters.

“It makes sense, at least initially, to provide alternatives for major requirements,” Krabacher said.

After voting to keep the guideline, the senate approved the DEP.

Another item of debate was the approval of the academic calendars for 2002-03 and 2003-04. Krabacher moved to refer the calendars back to the executive committee, saying that they didn?t need to be approved until next year and could be looked at with more detail, particularly where Spring Break would occur.

“This gives us time to look at the issue of spring break more carefully,” Krabacher said.

The motion to refer to the executive committee was defeated by one vote, leaving senate members to debate about the placement of Spring Break. Senate member Sylvia Navari moved to change the break to the eighth week of the semester, rather than keeping it during the week before Easter, saying both students and faculty are usually exhausted by the time the break comes around in April.

“Over the years, when Spring Break is scheduled [before Easter], that usually occurs in April,” Navari said. “We are dragging. Spring Break should be held in the middle of the semester.”

Provost and Vice President of University Affairs Bernice Bass de Martinez said many of the students and faculty on campus have families with children attending local schools, and one of the benefits of holding Spring Break before Easter is that nearly all of those schools have their break at that time.

“We?ve found that nearly all of the schools in [local] districts have their spring break the week immediately preceding Easter,” Bass de Martinez said.

Bauerly agreed that Spring Break is fine where it is, saying that having the break later in the semester is a nice break for both students and faculty whose workloads have piled up.

“I don?t see that there?s a problem with the system, and I don?t see why we?re spending time talking about it,” Bauerly said.

After the motion to move Spring Break failed, the calendars were approved.

Other items approved at the meeting included the establishment of an Outstanding Service Award, modeled after the Outstanding Teacher Award, to reward staff for loyal service at Sac State. Amendments were made to the Faculty Merit Scholarship Award Program Policy, making funds more accessible for student scholarships.