A recent amendment to the class and lab schedule proposed by Provost and Dean of the College Jim Pence calls for the insertion of a time slot on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. referred to as "Community Time." No regular class time would be scheduled during this period. Chapel would retain its separate time but be reduced by five minutes, running from 11:10 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
Community Time would be used to schedule events that would otherwise take place during the afternoons or evenings, including discussions and forums regarding campus and nationwide issues, guest speakers, special interest events such as art shows or lectures, and faculty meetings. The time would also provide a break in the Thursday schedule, affording opportunities for faculty-student dialogue and fellowship and for utilizing campus facilities including the Chapel, Buntrock Commons, and the new Tostrud Center.
Pence sees the time as a chance for more members of the college community to participate in important decision-making processes that will shape the future of St. Olaf. He stressed the vital role of conversation and interaction in fostering a sense of community within the academic framework.
"A liberal arts education is more than just going to class," Pence said.
The addition of Community Time, however, would necessitate some restructuring of the Thursday schedule, which has generated some concern. Thursday classes currently end at 2:45 p.m., allowing for music ensembles and athletic teams to begin their practice as early as 3:15. Under the Community Time proposal, the end of Thursday classes and labs would be pushed back to 3:50.
Stephanie Jacobs '03 sees the plan as being potentially problematic. "Adjusting to make time for this change is a larger issue," Jacobs said. "This implementation has the potential to generally disrupt the carefully balanced schedules in which students conduct their lives. This will domino to change other factors of student life."
Pence related that most of the departments that would be affected by the change seemed receptive to the idea. Dean of Student Life Greg Kneser agreed.
"I think it's really powerful that all the departments we've talked to -- science, music, athletic, food service -- we've been willing to accommodate themselves for this change," Kneser said. "That they're willing to commit time, energy, and resources in order to make this happen should be a huge signal that this is an opportunity that much of the faculty sees as significant."
Several liberal arts colleges have made recent adjustments to adopt similar scheduling plans. Response to the effectiveness of the time allotment has been mixed. This fall, Carleton College instituted "Common Time," despite strong opposition from the student population during its initial proposal last spring. "I don't think much happens during Common Time except that people go eat lunch or take a nap, but it is a nice break in the day," Carleton student Luke Hasskamp said. "I don't think it has been effective in bringing people together, but I do think that more people now are in support of it."
University of St. Thomas student Andrew Grover views the establishment of their Convocation Hour as invaluable. "I believe it to be an integral part of University life," he said. "With students, faculty, and staff maintaining vibrant lives outside the boundaries of the University, it is difficult at best to weigh the commitments of family and extra-curricular activities against those of a student or professor. Convocation Hour has alleviated, or at least eased, much of this quagmire."
Recognizing the concerns of time management for students, Kneser said, "I'm favor of this proposal, but I believe that we must proceed with caution. In order for it to be effective, we need to follow through with what we say it will do to bring the community together. If we're going to do this, we need to deliver."
The Community Time amendment is being proposed on a one-year trial basis. If approved, the effectiveness of Community Time would be evaluated in February of 2003 to determine its continuation. The Senate discussed the issue Feb. 21, and Pence anticipates a final decision by Feb. 22.