The Allegheny College faculty will vote on a proposal to eliminate the spring semester observance of Gator Day for the upcoming academic year on May 13, 2016. In its place, the proposal suggests the final Tuesday of the semester be set aside as a celebration of student achievement.
According to Faculty Council Chair and Associate Professor of Biology Bradley Hersh, there is currently a Senior Recognition Day. However with classes still in session, it makes it difficult on students and faculty.
“Classes are ongoing, so getting students and faculty there can be challenging,” Hersh said.
The proposal comes amid faculty concerns that the original purpose of Gator Day has been lost since it was added to the academic calendar in 2012.
“As with any new addition, you want to ask if it is doing the things it intended to,” Hersh said.
Hersh said the faculty council has been hearing concerns regarding Gator Day programing for the last few years. He said this lead to the creation of a survey last year in which students and faculty were asked about the effectiveness of Gator Day events.
According to Hersh, 45 percent of faculty and 15 percent of students responded to the survey. An overwhelming majority of students supported Gator Day programing, while most members of faculty came out against its continuation.
A portion of the faculty reported they felt Gator Day no longer serves any purpose in the academic calendar
“There was a portion of the faculty that would have liked to have seen Gator Day go away completely,” Hersh said.
Despite some faculty members’ desire to eliminate the programing, Hersh said it was largely thought that turning the spring Gator Day into a day of senior celebration was a preferable alternative.
“Seniors who have worked for much of the year on their senior project will be able to display that work,” Hersh said.
While the decision will be left entirely to the faculty to vote on, Hersh and Aimee Knupsky, chair of the psychology department and director of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities, spoke with members of Allegheny Student Government on Tuesday, April 26 to receive input they could take back to the faculty.
Knupsky said as it is currently organized, many seniors are unable to attend the senior project celebration on the last Tuesday of the semester because of classes. She said making the day free of classes would allow more students to attend and present at the event.
“From my experience from organizing Senior Recognition Day this year, we had 15 students who could not attend,” Knupsky said.
Several members of ASG Senate and Cabinet voiced their opposition to the change. Director of Diversity and Inclusivity Connor Racine, ’16, said he felt the change was aimed at pleasing outside non-students and that the change would undermine the power of students.
“This feels like it is being steered away from student concerns and more toward what it looks like to the outside,” Racine said.
Hersh said the event is not designed to take away from students, but rather to recognize the hard work that students do during the academic year.
Chief of Staff and Vice President Elect Sofia Kaufman, ’17, raised the concern that by canceling classes on the Tuesday before exams, students with classes on Tuesday and Thursday could be effected.
“Some people are concerned that by putting it on a Tuesday, for Tuesday-Thursday classes students won’t see their professor for 11 days,” Kaufman said.
While Hersh said he understood the concern, he said there were other ways for students to ensure they were prepared for exams.
“There is nothing that would prevent students from reaching out to their professor,” Hersh said.
Some students, Racine said, would not feel as comfortable approaching their professor outside of the classroom, and would therefore be at a disadvantage. Hersh said he did not feel that adding three days to the last time they had class would have any effect on students’ retention of course material.
Other members of ASG also pointed out that Gator Day has become a “mental health break” for many students. Hersh said this was not what Gator Day was originally intended to do.
“When it was voted into existence, that day-offness was not part of the intent,” said Hersh.
Hersh assured the members of ASG the beneficial elements will be continued in the fall observance of Gator Day, which will remain on the academic calendar for the 2016-17 academic year regardless of how the May 13 vote goes.