Faculty considers shorter summer break

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By Shane Dingman

Thank your lucky stars you didn’t take those years off to travel Europe and Africa. The faculty of communication and design is considering adding an extra six-week term to the first year schedule, among several other possible curriculum changes, starting in 2003.

Sweeping changes to curriculum are being discussed in reaction to this years expected budget cuts. “We are trying to think outside the box,” says Ira Levine, dean of the faculty of communication and design. “In our past budget cutting exercise we have not done this. When you have to face a significant base budget reduction you must look at everything.”

The faculty already has one concentrated six week term, which runs before the first year of the radio and television arts graduate program. But under the scheme all the programs in the faculty, such as fashion, graphics communication management, interior design, image arts, journalism, RTA and theatre, would all add an extra term of concentrated learning. The extra term could add as much as $1,500 extra dollars onto first year tuition.

According to Levine, coupled with cost savings the scheme would afford, the extra term could help the faculty cope with the budget crunch, estimated as a $5-6 million shortfall this year and up to $10-12 million in the next four years.

Levine said many of the courses that would be concentrated into the six week term would be the expensive lab courses. This would allow the various schools to save the cost of teaching the courses over normal thirteen week periods while making lab resources more available to students.

Levine also stresses that this is just one of many ideas, though he did say that many of those ideas would likely never go past the discussion stage.

“I think its an idea of significance that bears some careful consideration,” says Levine. “I think its an idea that has real potential for us.”

Several program heads, while cautious to note the details haven’t been ironed out, have also reacted enthusiastically to the idea.

“There are some enormous benefits,” says Vince Carlin, chair of the school of journalism. “With a really intense period of skills development, the quicker their skills develop.”

Carlin noted that journalism’s another option would be to totally redesign the curriculum year by year. Carlin also hopes the changes will help to keep students in Ryerson even if they decide to leave journalism.

“The faculty concurs that we need an intense period of teaching writing skills and grammar skills,” says Carlin. “The biggest draw back… We reduce their summer by six weeks.”

Annick Mitchell, chair of the school of interior design, was more cagey about endorsing the idea, but still pointed out it has merit. “We are intrigued by it,” says Mitchell.

“Let’s put it this way, it has merits and so do others. You know what can happen if it gets in the wrong hands, it can go down in flames without ever having a chance. One has to be careful about saying too much too soon.”

Mitchell says that the motive for any changes is largely about creating a proactive plan so the expensive practical lab work can survive the budget cuts. “I’m not going to say the wolf is at the door, but sometime it feels like that.”

Brian Damude, chair of the school of image arts, is more blunt in assessing the danger of further budget cuts without a creative way to meet them.

“I’m on record as saying we’re cut to the bone,” says Damude. “Right now we’re just on the edge of holding it together.”

Not everyone who’s heard about the plan likes the implications. Alex Lisman, v.p. education at RyeSAC, says “they’re not seeing this from the perspective of the student who’s trying to get employment for the rest of the summer.” As much as he finds cause for concern, Lisman does empathize with the position of the faculty.

“They’re in a real bind as chairs of their departments,” says Lisman. “From our perspective it is how are students going to cope with this? The negative impact on employment, on their ability to finance their education.”

“You can see this in a totally negative light, and a totally positive light,” says Mitchell. “My students don’t know this, they don’t have a clue. I’m waiting for the right moment.”

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