Students petition to win weekends back from makeup classes

by Egan Davis / Beacon Correspondent • February 19, 2015

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A petition started two weeks ago to oppose weekend classes meant to make up days canceled because of snowstorms has received over 500 signatures to date.

Boston has received nearly 100 inches of snow this winter, according to the National Weather Service, tying the record for the second-snowiest season in history. With such severe weather, Emerson has had five snow days this semester.

Though the college recently announced it would lengthen the academic calendar to make up some missed classes, there are still two Saturday makeup days. The registrar also said students whose courses were significantly affected by the snow may have more flexibility in switching them.

The petition was started by Isabel Mader, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major, on change.org. Weekend classes take place during work hours for many students, the petition wargues.

“Many of us cannot afford to take off work on the weekends in order to attend classes as we support ourselves. Many of our bosses do not grant coverage for our shifts on weekends, as we have already made that commitment to them,” the petition stated.

Mader did not respond to requests for comment.

The petition offered alternative solutions, including extending the one-day reading, or pre-finals, period to a week, and extending the semester.

To be accredited with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and receive federal financial aid, courses at Emerson must meet for 14 weeks of instruction plus a week of exams, adding up to a total of 15 weeks in the semester, according to the association. An Emerson four-credit course is required to meet for 200 minutes a week, and for two hours during exam week. Because Emerson must meet this minimum time to be remain accredited, the school is obligated make up the canceled days.

Chief Academic Officer Michaele Whelan said the administration is trying to accommodate the needs of students and the college.

“I would hope that many appreciate that their voices were heard,” she wrote in an email to the Beacon, “and that more Saturdays were not designated.”

The Student Government Association met with William DeWolf, Emerson’s registrar, on Feb. 12 to discuss changes to calendar for the spring semester due to the recent snow days.

SGA proposed adding a student to the administrative committee assigned to developing the college calendar, which DeWolf said he would bring up at the next committee meeting. 

DeWolf also told SGA that students who have only had one or two class meetings, or none at all, would have more flexibility with adding and dropping classes, even though the designated add-drop period is over.

On Feb. 18, Emerson announced it would extend its academic calendar; the semester is now scheduled to end on May 9 instead of May 6. Makeup days are also scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 21; Saturday, April 25; Thursday, April 30; Friday, May 1; and Monday, May 4. The reading day during finals week will now be May 5, and finals will now be held from Wednesday, May 6 to Saturday, May 9.

For certain students, scheduling makeup days on Saturday would result in canceling valuable time for working on projects, junior visual and media arts major Harry Brownstein said in an interview with the Beacon.

“If Emerson is going to do makeup days on all these Saturdays, they’re preventing a lot of students from getting the experience that will qualify them for the real world and prevent them from learning more,” said Brownstein.

Brownstein said film students complete many of the projects and assignments they are assigned on the weekends. He said weekend makeup classes are detrimental to faculty also.

“A lot of the teachers here aren’t just teachers,” he said. “They’re also artists, and the weekends are when they get a lot of their work done.”