EWU trustees vote to stick with quarter system
Resolution also instructs university to look into specific programs that might benefit from move to semesters, provide better student success benchmarks
Eastern Washington University’s exploration of changing from quarters to the semester system appears to be over – at least for now.
The university’s board of trustees unanimously adopted a resolution at its Dec. 3 meeting stating it believes “it is currently in the best interest of the university to remain on the quarter system.” As part of the resolution, the board did instruct EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo to work with the faculty senate, associated students and staff to determine if there were university programs that might benefit from a move to the semester system, and report back at the board’s Jan. 24, 2014 meeting.
The resolution also requested the president work with those organizations and groups to determine if there are improvements that can be made to the current quarter system that would improve student success and report on such at the board’s March 21 meeting.
Finally, the resolution made a similar request to provide specific benchmarks and schedules in the areas of general education reform, first-year student advising and mentoring and college and department plans to improve six-year graduation rates, retention for first-time, full-time freshmen and ensuring credits to degree do not exceed 180 quarter hours, with a couple exceptions, by the board’s May 15 meeting.
In discussing his decision to support the resolution, EWU trustee U.S. District Court Judge Robert Whaley told the board he had heard there might be some movement at the legislative level to convert all the institutions in the state to the semester system at some point in time.
“Semesters, if I was a czar, I would impose it,” Whaley said. “But I’m not.”
In other action items, the board unanimously approved 12 new, revised and repealed policies ranging from traffic and parking regulations and recreational equipment to the student conduct code, volunteers, intellectual property management and drug and alcohol abuse prevention. One item pertaining to undergraduate housing was removed for a separate discussion and vote.
Washington Administrative Code 172-130 would require that all full-time, single, first-year students at Eastern under age 21 live in university residence halls for the duration of their first year. The WAC lists eight exceptions to the policy, including students who have primary legal custody of a child, students with a documented medical issue incompatible with residence hall living and students “for whom living in a university residence hall would cause undue financial hardship.”
Trustee Dr. Mark May complimented university staff on the concise nature of their research and noted the “tremendous” benefits to students of living on campus. However, May said the goal of the board is to do what’s best for students by providing “access and accomplishment” and expressed concerns about the new policy, specifically that it might be too rigid and hurt Eastern as it competes for students against other universities, particularly those that lack residence requirements.
“As written, given the typical nature of (Eastern’s) student population, I think it limits us,” May said.
In speaking in support of the policy, trustee Jo Ann Kaufman said she understood and respected May’s concerns, noting a lot of research and study of universities with similar policies had been done and that it is never a given that any policy is 100 percent positive. She added that she felt comfortable the policy included enough waivers to cover most students, and that it accomplished a key element of bringing some students traditionally disenfranchised in college life into the fold.
“It’s important to be part of a community that will help and support you and not just get you through the door,” she said.
ASEWU President Dahir “DJ” Jigre told the board in earlier remarks that he had sent them a letter in support of the policy, noting it was a first-year requirement that could be beneficial to students in getting into campus life and activities.
“Second year, if they want to move forward with their lives (off campus) they can,” he said.
The board adopted the policy on a 7-1 vote.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.