Despite Snow, Class a Go
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 02:01
With last Tuesday’s snow-related class cancellations still fresh in professors’ minds, the Main Campus Executive Faculty voted Friday in favor of Provost Robert Groves’ memorandum to encourage professors to preserve the schedule of classes during a campus closure.
The MCEF, which is comprised of representatives from each academic department, approved Groves’ “Academic Continuity Planning” memo. Originally released Nov. 15, 2013, it differentiates between campus closures and class cancellations, which were previously synonymous. According to the memo, “classes will not be officially [cancelled] in the event of a campus closure.”
Instead, the usual class schedule will remain in place, and professors are allowed to maintain their academic program, as originally planned, through various educational tools, such as lecture capture, Blackboard, Skype and make-up sessions, among others.
“Maintaining instructional activities is central to Georgetown’s ability to fulfill its fundamental mission of teaching and research,” the memo reads.
Although the memo strongly suggested that professors take advantage of this opportunity, it is not a requirement and only applies to faculty that choose to do so. In the memo, Groves also stressed that there is not just one approach that is applicable at-large to the campus community because of the diversity of Georgetown’s academic programs.
Although many professors did not seem to know about the memo itself, they agreed that this attitude has been long-standing at Georgetown.
“I had no knowledge of the vote because the faculty has been encouraged to do this for three years,” economics professor Carol Rogers, who posted several short lecture captures online to compensate for her lost class, said.
This push toward academic continuity during campus closures has been in development since 2010, when a heavy snowstorm caused Georgetown to close campus for four days.
“You really want to maintain the course’s momentum, particularly early in the semester,” Rogers said. “I have homeworks due every week, and an interruption would be really harmful to the momentum of the course.”
Asiye Kaya, visiting professor at the BMW Center for German and European Studies, agreed. Kaya held a make-up session for her class in response to Tuesday’s closure.
“It was my own teaching policy. You have to make up the class because it’s important for the entire class structure,” Kaya said. “It didn’t have anything to do with this initiative.”
Associate accounting professor Alan Mayer-Sommer, who is holding two optional make-up classes, added that new technologies may make it even easier to maintain a class’ academic progression through campus closures.
“What you need to have is the technology to support the idea, so that if you can’t have a class that physically meets, there’s some kind of way that you can change your class to an online class,” Mayer-Sommer said. “Otherwise, you end up having to do what we’re doing, which is having to make a series of make-up classes, all to make up the same class, because there are conflicts. You have to schedule at least four different time slots in order to make up for the one day we missed — it’s not very efficient.”
However, Emma Van Dervort (SFS ’16) cited the possibility of technological malfunctions.
“I just think it’s going to cause a lot of trouble because things with technology like that never really work out that well. I don’t think it would be fair for teachers to really hold students accountable for that,” Dervort said. “If they could make it more streamlined, there’s no reason to not do it. I do see how cancelling classes could really cause some classes to fall behind.”
Nevertheless, some professors choose to instead push their syllabi back, counting the cancelled class as a lost day.
Several students agreed and said that campus closures and class cancellations should remain synonymous.
“I think it ruins the point of a snow day,” Megan Szurgot (COL ’16) said. “It’s bad for the teachers and for the students. No teachers want to teach when they’re at home.”
Cindy Gao (MSB ’17) also supported the voluntary aspect of the new policy.
“If the rest of the university is not functioning, you can’t expect professors to be able to have this kind of commitment,” Gao said.