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Faculty opposes fall break

EMILY REID/Arizona Daily Wildcat
ASUA president Doug Hartz and UA president Pete Likins listen to questions and comments at the Faculty Senate meeting yesterday afternoon in the College of Law.
By Jeff Sklar
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday March 4, 2003

Faculty senators dealt a blow yesterday to a proposed weeklong vacation during Thanksgiving week, arguing that it would undermine the university's academic mission.

Senators said the proposal, which Student Body President Doug Hartz has championed since his campaign last year, would needlessly cut back on the number of class days in the fall semester.

"You are the big losers," Sen. John Willerton told Hartz. "You lose three days that can't be made up."

Hartz said that even if classes were canceled that week, UA students would still attend school more days than students at peer institutions. Now, students here go to school 75 days a semester. Even if three days were cut from the calendar, the semester at UA would be half a day longer than the average of its peer institutions.

Student leaders at yesterday's senate meeting also said that nearly 30 percent of professors cancel class before Thanksgiving anyway, and that class attendance the day before the holiday is well below 50 percent.

"What we found is that for those three days, faculty aren't going to give us classes," said Sen. Chris Farney, academic affairs director for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

Nine consecutive days off would interrupt the learning process two weeks before final exams, a time when students' concerns should be on schoolwork, not vacation, said Sen. Donald Davis.

"There is a three-week period between Thanksgiving and winter vacation, so I don't feel the need," said Sen. Miklos Szilagyi.

Szilagyi said that realistically the vacation would be even longer than the proposed nine days, because many students ask him not to require assignments be turned in right before or right after spring break. He expects the same phenomenon with a fall break.

Hartz hadn't expected such ardent opposition from senators and said he's discouraged that so many didn't like the idea. But he says he'll push on and try to make some headway on the proposal before his term expires on May 1.

"I feel an obligation to make sure I continue to try," Hartz said last night. "If we can get it done in some small way, I think it would be a benefit."

Hartz said it will be a struggle to get the proposal enacted, because the Faculty Senate approves the academic calendar.

Faculty senators yesterday also voiced cautious optimism toward a proposal that would allocate more than $6 million per year of UA funds for improving salaries across the university.

Vice Provost Elizabeth Ervin created the proposal earlier this year in response to President Pete Likins' Focused Excellence plan, which calls for the university to find alternative sources of salary funding to compensate for an ever-shrinking state allocation.

No senators opposed the idea of raises, but some wondered how UA would guarantee the money would be available every year.

President Pete Likins said that if the university budget couldn't support higher faculty salaries, it would mean people would lose their jobs.

"That would just require that we fire more people," Likins said. "If we start committing funds in advance for these purposes, we are creating enormous risk."

Under the plan, $250,000 would be set aside to help retain faculty who are considering leaving the university. Some senators wondered if that was enough, but Ervin said UA already spends $10-$12 million to retain faculty, and the $250,000 would augment that.

Keren G. Raz contributed to this report.

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