The Scheduling Conflict

Nicolas Raffinengo, Contributing Columnist

In recent weeks one topic has been controversial on campus: that topic being the new proposed 15/14 schedule (fall semester 15 weeks, spring semester 14 weeks) and 15/15 schedule (both semesters 15 weeks) to replace our current 14/14 schedule (both semesters 14 weeks).

Much of the advocacy for the new proposed longer schedules comes from the faculty and students of the STEM department, who say that the proposed week gives additional time for an extra lab / a few extra = class times (as reported by the Parthenon on Feb. 15 issue).

Let a bevy of concerns come in from the student body, faculty and administrators regarding the extension of a longer schedule. A couple of key concerns have been voiced: Increased costs of
attendance, an increased workload across the board and unpopular with the student body.

Firstly, the concern that has been voiced has been the increased cost of attendance. While student advocates on the committee state that this extended policy will not increase tuition, at their highest ground, the net cost of attendance will increase. With such a policy that extends the calendar a couple of costs are to be accounted for: payment of faculty and staff for an extra week, student increased costs for room and board, and as well as a lost extended holiday for student workers.

Primarily, by extending teaching by a week, faculty and staff contracts would have to increase, meaning that the operating cost would overall increase.

Yet, unless the state government picks up the tab, this cost would most likely be levied on the students. Doing quick math using which reports the 2022 average salary at Marshall for faculty being $73,000, the extra week would add 1.05 million in extra costs. Using the same site for staff the cost burden would be 1.18 million in extra costs. This increase would lead to a roughly 4-5% spike in tuition based on Marshall University’s webpage on average tuition.

Not only will tuition increase, but the cost of dorms and dining will as well. Applying the average meal plan price roughly a $70 increase in meal plans and anywhere between $120 for the cheapest housing
(double in towers) to $169 for the most expensive (single commons).

Overall incorporating these costs, the average student with an added week may incur some hundreds of dollars in cost burdens per semester.

Yet, by removing a week from winter break, students who work would lose an extra week to help pay off their college expenses. Students who live further from home can also see traveling fees increase by 44% and difficulty getting back home (New York Post, Sept. 22, 2022), with a large influx of travel occurring the week before Christmas.

Another is increased workload. While the student workload increase is understood, what flew under the radar was the issue with the administrative actions the university must take between semesters.

Faculty advisor for the MU SGA, Michelle Biggs, made a note during the session regarding the extended
semester, that the administrative work that is put in between semesters would be cramped in this format, not giving enough time to process their duties between semesters.

Finally, unpopular amongst the student body that makes up Marshall. In a quick poll, I quickly conducted the week before the SGA vote, using the most effective tool available to me, I sent out a poll via SnapChat MU (Only allowing students with a Marshall email the ability to see the poll). With over 500 student votes cast, roughly 72% of students voted against the proposal of the 15-week plan.

While this is only a small batch survey, that is nowhere near perfect,
the trend showed to be true inside of the SGA, whose voting senators are made up of students from the different colleges at Marshall. Over a 2⁄3 majority of the senators present voted against the proposed extension of the schedule, with some CoS senators voting as well in favor of keeping the current 14-week semester.

At the end of this debate, with a small population of the entire Marshall population seeing a net benefit from this increase, is it worth changing the schedule? I would say it isn’t.

While I support students and faculty in the College of Science and any other program that may need lab time, the burden levied on the rest of campus is not worth the added 3 working days by adding an extra week.

The benefits of a 4% longer schedule as a means to solve all the problems proposed by proponents of the 15-week plan cite a lack of available labs or difficulty in getting through the material, which seems to minimally solve these issues at best, and rather put a bandage on a bullet wound.

Instead, policies and funding that can address the issues head-on, rather than passively with the scheduling proposal, would most likely lead to a happier STEM student body, without compromising the schedule of the vast majority of students.