On Feb. 10, President William Destler made the announcement that will change the core of the RIT curriculum. Starting fall of 2013, RIT will be among the majority of higher education institutions adhering to the semester system.
That very same day, every RIT student received an email via the RIT Message Center explaining the change and outlining how it will take place. Destler emphasized that the decision was difficult and took into account student, faculty and staff input. Destler stated that he wanted to expand the institute’s possibilities by instilling the semester system rather than being confined by the “increasingly isolated” quarter system.
Benefits with semesters include improved compatibility with other schools. Students will be able to take classes at the University of Rochester or Eastman School of Music with fewer obstacles. The number of study and work abroad opportunities will increase since most schools abroad are also on the semester system.
The winter break will be significantly changed. There would be at least a four week break at the end of the semester rather than a two week break after every quarter. During this time, mini-semesters may be offered to allow students to take intensive classes during the break or to catch up on classes.
One of the issues raised by the calendar change was whether the classes would be as academically challenging. To address this, Destler stated, “This calendar ensures that there will be no loss of rigor in RIT’s academic programs, as it provides for 30 weeks of instruction during the academic year, the same as is currently offered under the quarter system.”
With this switch, RIT will be utilizing the five-by-three credit model, wherein students will ideally take five three-credit classes each 15-week semester. Although a few faculty members recommended a four-by-four credit model, wherein students would take four four-credit classes each semester, Destler was concerned about the lack of “variety and diversity” in that type of structure. Not every class, however, will be worth three credits; year long, introduction classes will likely be worth four credits, as they are the necessary building blocks of certain degrees.
the institute’s possibilities by instilling the semester system rather than being confined by the
‘increasingly isolated’ quarter system.”
- William Destler
Co-op requirements will need to be redesigned, but it will prove to be somewhat more advantageous for students because most employers hire other students from semester schools, and their programs tend to be more tailored to that schedule. However, not all potential employers were satisfied; one alum and co-op employer did call into the Dr. Destler Show on WITR expressing that his company prefers to hire students enrolled in schools on the quarter system because they are more flexible throughout the entire year.
With all of these changes, Destler emphasizes that he will do all he can to refrain from increasing fees with the shift. “We must ensure that no student suffers any loss of progress toward a degree during the transition; that no student’s graduation will be delayed as we make the change from quarters to semesters Ö As part of the transition process, every student on campus will be personally advised to ensure that this principle is upheld in every case,” he said.
Student reactions have been less than positive to this change. A few people called to ask Destler why he made this change when student opinion reflected that they want to stick with quarters. Around two-thirds of the 3,700 students who replied to the online calendar survey stated that they would prefer a quarter system. Student Government also had a majority vote which reflected the same sentiment, yet Destler decided to go with semesters, stating that he was fully aware that this would not be a uniformly popular decision with RIT stakeholders (students, faculty, staff, alumni and others connected to the institute).
RIT will continue to be a teaching school that values the students above research. The primary reason for the switch is to improve graduation and retention rates at RIT as well as maintain the quality of education. “My responsibility is ultimately to try to look into the future and try to see what is the best for [the Institute].”