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The Great Debate...RIT Style

Amanda Lasicki on Tuesday, 10 February 2009. Posted in Academic Calendar, Co-op

    Ahh...the great calendar debate has started once again. RIT is on the quarter system while most other colleges and universities are on the semester system. Every few years somebody brings up changing our calendar which leads to a discussion and lots of emails and articles in the Reporter and then ultimately everybody decides to keep the quarter system until a new group of students are at RIT and the cycle begins again.

What's the difference between quarters and semesters?

    Basically, at a semester school you have two sets of classes: Fall and Spring with a nice lengthy break in the middle. Each semester runs fifteen weeks with time at the end for finals (and if you're lucky "reading days").
    Quarter is just how it sounds - there are four terms BUT most students only take classes during three of the quarters (Fall, Winter, and Spring). You can use Summer Quarter to get ahead or catch up or do an internship or co-op. Quarters are only ten weeks long with a week at the end for finals followed by a one or two week before before the next quarter starts. Right now we do have a Holiday Break in the winter at the end of December which is either two or three weeks long.

What new calendars were brought up in this year's calendar discussion?

    Three different quarter-based calendars were brought up. Basically, RIT wants to make it so that Winter Quarter isn't split by Holiday Break, but still allow everybody to go home for the holidays. The first calendar was the normal one we're on now, with the split Winter Quarter. The second calendar proposed had a six year break between Thanksgiving and New Years and we'd finish later in the year (June). The third calendar proposed starting school near the end of September and getting out in June.  Many people didn't like these changes, so the semester system got brought up again. The final result of this year's discussion was that they need to draw up a semester system to compare to the three quarter system options . The discussion will begin this coming fall and a decision will be reached this time next year.

How do I feel about this year's discussion?

    Talking with a lot of fellow students, it seems to be that Winter Quarter is the hardest. This is due to a lot of things. Some programs have really hard courses scheduled. The cold weather really gets some people down. Some students can't time manage the split. There are a lot of activities (skiing, hockey, the musical). Personally, I'm not a fan of the split. I've had many professors treat it like two mini-quarters, with an exam during our third week and then beginning a new unit when we come back. I've had projects assigned over break that we are expected to do at home where maybe we don't have the resources or more realistically, the time.
    That being said, I also wouldn't want an extra-long Thanksgiving break or school to start later. Thanksgiving break has been two weeks long for the past two or three years. Nobody else was home and I was so bored. At least the other RIT kids were home with me so we could all be bored together. That was tolerable for two weeks, but six weeks?? No thanks. As for school starting later, I feel like RIT already goes back later than some state schools. My freshman year, I saw all my friends leave before me which was kind of upsetting. Besides, I was so pumped to go to college, it was torture watching all my friends head out! What would students do at home for almost a full month? And with both of those options, I'm not a fan of school getting out later. Early bird gets the worm and by worm I mean job. Every other college student would have snatched up the good jobs. Even though Rochester is known for it's cold weather, it gets really hot here in the summer and I'm sure the kids in the dorms without AC would not be too happy.
    As for a semester option, I feel like that would just take so much planning. Every single major would have to be restructured and every single class would need a new curriculum. Students would have less opportunities for co-ops and electives.

    Here's a new idea for you about a one week Thanksgiving Break so we all don't go nutso at home followed by four weeks of Winter Quarter, a two week Holiday Break, then the remaining six weeks of Winter Quarter plus finals. I know that an even split isn't possible because of the way the Holidays fall, but getting the split as close to equal as possible wouldn't be that bad. Plus we'd still be on our wonderful quarter system!