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ISSUE 115 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/22/2002

A word from our editors ... Community time

By Nicole Grunzke
Executive Editor

Friday, February 22, 2002

Ten years ago, an organization integral to the rating of colleges presented St. Olaf with a problem: our community was not involved in decisions paramount to the future of the college. A decade later the issue resurfaced within our newly formed College Council. This time, the college has an idea for a permanent solution to the perpetual problem: Community Time. Under the proposal, the administration would add roughly an hour onto the class schedule each Thursday to facilitate inter-community discussion.

While we applaud the administration in their efforts to improve life at St. Olaf, perhaps the catalysts of this proposed change need to be examined more closely.

According to the Community Time proposal sent to members of the student senate, an organization named the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (NCA) visits St. Olaf every ten years to, as stated on their website, "accredit colleges, universities, and other organizations of higher learning."

Undoubtedly an important institution, the NCA’s opinion of a college ultimately influences the ratings governing a college’s academic standing and reputation. Thus, it’s no surprise that administrators would want to impress them with their ability to change and reform.

However, has the Community Time resolution been presented too hastily?

Among the issues opposing the proposal were concerns that late-afternoon athletic practices would either need to be shortened, postponed, or have their beginnings sacrificed for the additional hour of discussion. Coupled with this detraction was the argument that the current hours of the cafeteria would not facilitate the athletes partaking in these delayed practices. Both of these concerns were voiced at the Feb. 14 senate meeting.

Unfortunately, the response produced by the administration seemed to glaze over these particular points. A revised Community Time proposal suggests that the current start time of Thursday athletics not change but that "students with classes/labs come late to practice." Additionally, instead of recommending extended times in the cafeteria, an email to members of student senate stipulated, "there should be no problem handling a few more students who eat late." The recommendation was based off of the current amount of student traffic and not a future prediction of the number of students who would be affected by this change.

Another question introduced in senate dealt with if the additional hour would allow enough time for a substantial speaker to visit St. Olaf. Several senators expressed concern that a lack of "flexibility" could arise from such a constricted block of time. Interestingly enough this concern was not specifically addressed by the revised Community Time proposal despite it being integral to its mission of facilitating discussion.

Regardless, many questions still lie unanswered. Before installing such an impacting program on the St. Olaf community all of its ramifications should be examined.. Making the effort to discuss this with the St. Olaf community is admirable, but only if their concerns are aptly taken into consideration and addressed. Issues such as extended hours for faculty, staff and students need to be taken in stride along with the fact that Carleton College implemented a similar program that failed to achieve similar goals.

The changes that are being proposed will affect mostly the student body, but the administration seems to be in too much of a hurry to recognize their reservations. In reality, this desire for "more time" may only lead to a bigger time crunch.

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