Macalester to stick to September 2 start date

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Graphic by Katherine Irving '22.

Estelle Timar-Wilcox, News Editor

On Friday, May 29, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Karine Moe announced via a campus-wide email that the fall 2020 semester will begin on Sept. 2 as previously scheduled. As of now, the college plans to hold classes in person.

Both the fall and spring semesters will be broken into two 7.5-week modules, during which students will take two four-credit classes. Moe wrote that the breakdown into modules will facilitate accommodations for students who are ill, in a high-risk category or unable to come to class. 

This structure also offers more flexibility to transition between remote and in-person learning if necessary. 

“While we all want to be back on campus together, we acknowledge that our plans must be flexible enough to effectively respond to public health guidance in a manner that prioritizes the health of our community and the experience of our students,” Moe wrote in the email. 

This decision changes the structure for the next year of instruction at Macalester. In addition to splitting the next two semesters into shorter modules, a module will also be offered in summer 2021.

“Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, we wanted to be sure to remain flexible throughout the academic year,” Moe wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “Making the decision now helps departments plan as they work to rebuild the course schedule.”

With this shift, students will need to re-register for classes. Details about the move-in process, dates of breaks and class offerings are still to be determined; Moe wrote in the announcement that students should expect more information in the next month addressing these remaining questions. 

According to a memo Moe sent to faculty and staff on Friday, May 29, she plans to meet with department chairs next week “to give guidance and support for rebuilding the course schedule.”

Senior leadership — including both outgoing President Brian Rosenberg and incoming President Suzanne Rivera — made this decision based on input from Macalester’s Educational Policy and Governance Committee (EPAG), Faculty Advisory Council (FAC) and Infectious Disease Task Force (IDTF). 

This group will continue making decisions for the coming academic year with advice from these groups and from state health guidelines. 

Moe wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly that the senior leadership is still hoping to make a decision on the mode of learning — online, in-person or some combination — by July 1, the deadline for first year students to defer their enrollment. 

Usually, the incoming class enrolls in first-year courses (FYCs) in the fall — four-credit courses reserved for first years that aim to help students transition to Macalester’s academics. Those might look different this year with the altered calendar. Moe wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly that Macalester’s Educational Policy and Governance (EPAG) committee is creating a new plan for these. 

Spanish professor Toni Dorca had planned to teach two courses in the fall, one of which is an FYC. Dorca wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly that professors are still working through how these changes will look in the classroom. 

“I don’t really know how the new schedule will affect our teaching in general,” Dorca wrote. “For the FYC, it will be a matter of condensing the readings in a shorter period of time.” 

Language classes will also function differently than most classes — these will be taught across both modules in a semester for five credits total. Moe stated in the memo that EPAG recommended this model. 

Moe also noted in the memo that this shift will pose a challenge for the coming year. 

“I want to acknowledge and appreciate that this will require significant work on the part of faculty and staff,” Moe wrote. 

While reformatting semester-long classes to fit a 7.5-week schedule will require some rethinking, Dorca said that may be easier from a teaching perspective than going fully remote again. 

“The difference maker for me is the remote vs. the in-person teaching,” Dorca wrote. “If we can do the latter, with the appropriate safety measures, everything becomes much easier.” 

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