Classes will not be cancelled this year for Scholars’ Day as part of an effort to re-focus and re-vitalize an annual academic tradition that many students have come to view as simply a day off from schoolwork.
That was among the recommendations of a special Scholars’ Day Committee that found only a fraction of the student population participates in Scholars’ Day academic events. The number of reported student conduct incidents, meanwhile, more than doubles during the days surrounding the event, the committee found.
The committee’s set of proposals, which also would shift the day’s events to the afternoon and evening of the Wednesday before Honors Convocation on April 18, has the support of SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum and his cabinet.
The plans, and the rationale behind them, were the subject of two open meeting discussions in Old Main’s Brown Auditorium last week and the Faculty Senate session held on Sept. 20. The Joint Chairs’ Council will take up the measures on Monday, Oct. 3.
Scholars’ Day was created to demonstrate, promote and encourage scholarship among SUNY Cortland students. It traditionally includes a daylong schedule of presentations followed by a keynote address featuring a noted scholar. Traditionally, classes are cancelled on the day of the event to maximize student participation.
Fewer than 10 percent of all SUNY Cortland students, however, are now estimated to participate in Scholars’ Day events, either as presenters or as attendees, according to R. Bruce Mattingly, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and chair of the Scholar’s Day Committee.
Total attendance at Scholars’ Day events fell from 1,523 in 2006 to 910 in 2010. The number of Scholars’ Day presentations dropped from 100 to 67 during that same time period, according to the committee.
Information on discipline-related incidents reported to the Student Conduct Office, meanwhile, showed an annual average of 39 incidents occurring during the five-day period surrounding Scholars’ Day. A similar time period just a week before Scholars’ Day, however, showed an annual average of only 16 incidents.
Numerous off-campus student parties are typically held on Scholars’ Day, resulting in community disturbances, disorderly conduct and excessive drinking. Some local bars hold special events beginning the evening before Scholars’ Day, according to the committee’s report.
“The committee believes that the cancellation of all classes can no longer be justified,” Mattingly said. “The campus hosts a number of conferences while classes are in session in which students participate, and we suggest that Scholars’ Day adopt that approach as well. “
Other recommendations made by the committee include
· Shifting Scholars’ Day to Wednesday instead of Friday, so it no longer is linked to a weekend.
· Moving the Scholars’ Day schedule of events to begin later in the day. Instead of starting in the morning, concurrent sessions of scholarly presentations would begin at 1:45 p.m. and run through 6:30 p.m. The poster session would be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the keynote presentation would begin at 7:30 p.m.
· Refocusing the event on student research and creativity. The Scholars’ Day Committee would review proposals more carefully for appropriateness. Although joint student and faculty presentations would continue to be allowed, faculty work would be de-emphasized in favor of student efforts.
· Renaming the event. The committee felt that over the last 15 years, the term “Scholars’ Day” has come to mean a day off from school and partying in the minds of many students. The changes in the event, therefore, should be accompanied by a new name to help emphasize the intended purpose of the event. The committee welcomes suggestions.
· The recommendations should be re-visited and reviewed after three years to determine if they have been effective in preserving the academic benefits of the day while increasing participation and reducing the problems that have come to be associated with Scholars’ Day.