SCCC Calendar Continues
To Create Controversy
By Matthew Youngfrau
LOCH SHELDRAKE February 22, 2000 -- One of the most controversial issues recently surrounding Sullivan County Community College has been the heated debate over their new academic calendar that begins in fall 2000.
College officials feel that starting before Labor Day, having extra breaks during the semester, and a separate week for final exams will benefit their students.
However, Sullivan County officials, Town of Fallsburg officials, private dorm owners, and Loch Sheldrake business owners feel that starting a week before Labor Day will adversely affect the local economy.
On Thursday, at the monthly Board of Trustees meeting at SCCC, the calendar issue went through another round of arguments among SCCC trustees, administrators, faculty, students, dorm owners, business owners and county officials. In the end, a compromise was reached that neither side expected nor was completely happy with and it may lead to even more problems down the road.
The new proposal is full of risks, calendar committee representative and humanities professor Vern Lindquist told the board and those assembled. This decision was not made lightly. Our students need a break to regroup and avoid burnout. To me, that is the most important part of this calendar.
We are not here to hurt the community, board of trustees chairman Ken Klein commented during the debate. We need to strike a balance between the best interests of the students and serving the community. One need cannot outweigh the other.
The discussion began when SCCC Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Jon Gonder explained the numerous factors that have to be considered when determining an academic calendar. Such factors include SUNY requirements, state law, PSA contract requirements, teamster contract requirements, various religious holidays, housing, and student needs.
Dr. Gonder then outlined the differences between Option 1 and Option 2. The calendars to be considered would cover Fall 2000 to Spring 2001 and Fall 2001 to Spring 2002.
Option 1 would start before Labor Day. There would be a 2-day break at Columbus Day, a 3-day break for Thanksgiving, a separate week for final exams, and the fall semester would end about a week before Christmas.
The spring semester (which is the same for both options) would be the same as it is this semester. Classes would start in mid-January, a week break in early March, 3 days off in Mid-April, and classes would end in Mid-May. Graduation would be around Mothers Day.
Option 2 is similar to the traditional calendar the college has been using for many years. Classes would start after Labor Day, there would be a 2-day break at Thanksgiving, no separate final exam week and classes would end a few days before Christmas.
With both options, the second year was along the same lines of the first year.
The Board was informed that a faculty meeting had been held on Tuesday, February 8. At that meeting, the calendar options were presented so the faculty could vote on it. Option 1 was passed by the faculty. The vote was 35 in favor, 21 against, and 1 abstention. As a new trustee, I was given a copy of the book Effective Trusteeship, Joel Lerner said during the discussion. In the book, it states that we have to relate the campus to the community and relate the community to campus. We need the community, and they seem against this. I say, if it aint broke, dont fix it.
Most of the students I spoke to like the earlier starting date, student trustee Jolan Armour related during the discussion. The way things are now, it is very tough to take three or four final exams in one day. Also, ending a few days before Christmas makes it very difficult for students to get home. I myself did not make it home for Christmas.
The Board was also presented with the opening dates for all of the community colleges in the state for the past 17 years. They ranged from August 23 to September 8, with the most common opening date being August 30. They were also presented with statistics that showed late registration (students who sign up after Labor Day) had greatly declined over the last three years.
Another factor brought up was what impact an early opening would have on the approved landlords. Of the four, two will have summer residents until the end of August. The other two are currently in negotiations to have summer residents. None are willing to accept students before Labor Day.
Alternative housing options were then discussed if the college started their semester before Labor Day. Most of the places college officials looked into were hotels. For one week, per student, the prices ranged from $175 to $947. The average price per student for the week would be $325.
At last months meeting, Town of Fallsburg officials, county legislators, the president of the visitors association, and the head of the chamber of commerce all told you they were against this calendar, yet you went ahead with it anyway, private dorm owner Bernie Kroop told the board. Most students are on financial aid. We wait for several weeks before we get paid. I dont think others would do that.
Youre asking these students to pay an average of $300 on top of security deposit, and the semesters rent, manager of College Dorms Carol Kroop pointed out. Most students cant afford that.
In breaking from tradition, Chairperson, Ken Klein opened the floor to comments before the Board voted on the options. Many voiced their opinions. (District 7 Legislator Leni Binder attended the meeting but did not offer public comment.)
I dont care when other colleges start, longtime board member Harold Diamond commented. We seem to have this knack to get people teed off at us. Right now, we need the dorm owners. I really dont like either option, but if I have to choose, I go with Option 2.
I wasnt going to say anything tonight, but I cant stay silent anymore, added chairperson of the division of math and sciences, Paul Goldstein. We have a lot of serious problems here. To me, the calendar is not that big a problem. Our major problem is enrollment and either way, this wont turn it around.
The floor was closed to any further discussion, and the board decided to vote on the options. For any resolution to pass, six out of ten trustees must vote for it. Three trustees Fred Stabbert III, Bob Ernst, and Joan Farrow were unable to attend Thursdays meeting. Due to legal regulations, none of the three were allowed to vote on the issue unless they were at the meeting.
Option 2 was voted on first. Board members Sue Kurtman, Harold Diamond and Joel Lerner voted in favor of Option 2. Board members Sue Kaiser, Ken Klein, Penny Coombe, and Jolan Armour voted against it. The motion was defeated by a four to three vote.
Then the board decided to vote on Option 1. Board members Kaiser, Klein, Coombe, and Armour voted in favor of Option 1. Krutman, Diamond, and Lerner voted against it. Again, the motion was defeated by a four to three vote.
With both options voted down, the board seemed frustrated. They explored what would happen if no calendar passed. It was pointed out that with the calendar already being late, something need to be done at the meeting. Student registration, advertising, housing, and other issues depended on a calendar and no further delays could be afforded. So a compromise was proposed. Option 2 would be in effect for year one and Option 1 would be in effect for year two. They reasoned that they couldnt leave without a calendar and this gave the community a year to get used to the new calendar. All but Diamond voted in favor of the compromise. With a six to one vote in favor of the new compromise, the calendar was adopted.
After the vote most in attendance quickly left the meeting.