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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Community Time debated

By Maren Daniel
Staff Writer

Friday, March 19, 2004

Thursday afternoons at St. Olaf may soon look different. A faculty task force has recently turned a proposal over to President Christopher Thom-forde and Dean and Provost James May that could eliminate community time.

"It's clear that the community as a whole has divided opinions about it," said David Booth, chair of the Curriculum and Educational Policies Committee (CEPC) and co-chair of the Community Time Task Force.

While the one-hour and 15-minute block of time, which was created two years ago on a trial basis, sets aside time for community activities, it also poses some problems. Members of the science faculty have encountered trouble in scheduling Thursday labs. Co-curricular activities such as band and choir have been forced to push practices back a half-hour, which cut into the dinner hour, inconveniencing students and frustrating directors.

Students, for the most part, said that they are largely unaffected by Community Time.

"I don't even know what Community Time does," Isaac Arnquist '05 said, adding that he does enjoy the break in the day that it provides.

Others agreed.

"It doesn't bother me that it's there. Nobody really uses it," Julia Molony '05 said.

Students who remember St. Olaf without Community Time said that they preferred the preferred the original schedule.

"It was easier to remember what time class started on Thursday," Mel Fechner '05 said.

Fechner added that, while she has grown to like the time, she uses it to nap and do homework.

"I wouldn't say that it's fulfilling its purpose," Fechner said.

Community Time was originally created in the fall of 2002 by former Dean and Provost James Pence in response to difficulties that attending monthly evening meetings created for faculty with a long commute or young children. In addition, Community Time was meant to set aside time for events such as lectures, concerts and student and faculty meetings.

In response to mixed feelings from both students and faculty, the Community Time Task Force was assembled in the summer of 2003 to investigate the effectiveness of the experimental community time.

The task force surveyed over 650 students, faculty and staff, asking how beneficial they felt Community Time was, and how they felt it should or should not be reorganized.

Around one-third of respondents favored discontinuing Community Time altogether, while under half voted to continue as is. The rest favored revising the schedule.

Seventy-five percent of students said that they almost never attend Community Time events. While around two-thirds of the faculty agreed that Community Time works well for monthly meetings, two-thirds also said they are too busy to attend these other events.

In its final report, the Community Time Task Force concluded that community time is only serving its intended purposes for faculty, and that "it serves those purposes only modestly." Since its main benefit is that it increases attendance at faculty meetings, "the faculty needs to decide if this benefit is worth the attendance costs."

The task force turned four proposals over to the faculty to vote on at its March 4 meeting. The four proposals were: continuing as is with community time, abandoning it completely and returning to evening faculty meetings, having community time re-place a slightly ex-tended chapel time once a month in order to accommodate faculty meetings or having community time follow chapel time once a month.

Of these proposals, the first two received the most votes.

"The results of the faculty vote suggest that many people want to keep community time the way it is, while many people want to abandon it completely," Booth said. Faculty did not favor revising the schedule.

These results were sent to May and Thomforde, who will collaborate to make a final decision. According to the Deans office, no decision has been made yet.

"Once the President and Dean have made a decision, some people will be frustrated, some will be happy, and some won't care," Booth said. "But it will be important for us to put the discussion behind us and move forward."

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