EDITORIAL: Denying proposed calendar ignores the needs of students, disrupts shared governance

The sun sets behind Anderson Hall. On Sept. 10, 2019, faculty senate voted against the calendar with a fall break proposed by the University Calendar Committee and SGA. (Archive Photo byGeorge Walker | Collegian Media Group)

On Sept. 10, faculty senate ignored the will of the student body and voted to deny the University’s Calendar Committee recommendation to add an October break for the 2022 to 2025 academic years. Furthermore, in the decision-making process protocols and mechanisms were interrupted.

Prior to the faculty senate vote to kill the amended academic calendar, Student Governing Association special ordered and unanimously approved a resolution on behalf of the student body supporting the calendar. Discussions on the issue centered predominantly around mental wellness and anxiety. Opposition to the break focused on how changes to the calendar could disrupt curricula and cited lack of data to back up the notion that removing two days from the calendar would address the mental health issue. Faculty senate repeatedly called for more evidence.

SGA turned the matter over to the students, sending out a survey about the proposed break. More than 750 students participated, and the results yielded a majority decision — most respondents felt most stressed or incurred the most mental health strain in October, when the break was proposed to fall. Most respondents indicated they have wanted to take a mental health day from classes, but couldn’t. Most profound of all, more than 95 percent reported they felt adding a two day break in the fall semester would improve their academic performance.

Kansas State has 80 consecutive instructional days between Labor Day and Thanksgiving break. To put that in perspective, the University of Kansas and Wichita State have half that. Pittsburg State and Emporia State have less than half that.

Additionally, Jansen Penny, student body president and senior in industrial engineering, previously said K-State is the only remaining Kansas Board of Regents school to hold more than the 146 required instructional days.

Representatives from SGA, the Division of Student Life, the Access Center and the Committee on Emerging Student Issues and Trends spoke up in favor of adding the break.

So how is it that the student voice is ignored? How is it that when major parts of the university’s governance system indicate the necessity of removing two days from the calendar, they are ignored? How can the data collected from K-State’s own students be ignored?

K-State’s system of shared governance failed the student body and ignored the most important stakeholders. The shared decision-making process across faculty, staff, students and administrators has crumpled. The system’s power comes from the administration’s willingness to allow the procedures to run their course. If the willingness is gone, then the system fails.

Provost Charles Taber, who gets the final say in the matter, indicated in an emailed statement that he intends to finalize his decision by the end of the week. The Collegian editorial board implores him to listen to the will of the students he serves and consider the weight of the data that suggests the status of their mental well-being and academic performance.