In March 2009, Provost Robert Palazzo announced that the Board of Trustees “modified the academic calendar of Rensselaer to enable significant new prospects for curricular, co-curricular, and personal growth programming,” or, in lay terms, made winter break longer at the expense of summer. At the time, there were rumors that a new semester would be offered, “J-semester,” but this does not appear to be the case.
As with any change at the Institute, The Polytechnic and other students would like the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons, but this is difficult as little follow-up information has been offered. Possible consequences of this change include an increased cost to the Rensselaer Union and a delay of graduation. The increased cost to the Union (which could raise next year’s activity fee) comes from the responsibility of the Union to pay for student athletes who must be on campus for practice and games, regardless of when classes are in session. And what are the benefits? What does RPI plan to offer that was not possible when winter break was only four weeks? But more importantly, how are we supposed to find the answers?
We are interested to see how,“the new schedule will present opportunities for activities that enrich the social and cultural life of the university community,” but we are going to need a little guidance to see the light. We hope to hear that students are able to take advantage of this opportunity in a way that could not have happened if this extra week did not exist. However, students need to learn from the Institute exactly what these opportunities are, ideally prior to booking our rides home for the holidays.