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September 16, 1960 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1960-09-16

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tudies Grants To 'U' Fund Officials- Call Trimester Plan Successful at Pitt

The University of Pittsburgh is
currently the only major Ameri-
can university operating with a
trimester calendar.
As this plan boosts an institu-
tion's capacity by 50 per cent. "a
legislature will hound the presi-
dent of a state university to
death when it hears about it" a
Pitt official says. The legisla-
ture's question: Why build extra
buildings when you can go to a
trimester calendar which accom-
plishes the same end?
Pitt began its scheduling ex-
periment last September, and to
date, is well satisfied with its
success. Here's how the system
The academic year is divided
into three fifteen-week periods,
beginning September 1, January 2
and sometime in the middle of
April, leaving August as a vaca-
tion period for the entire Uni-
versity. The trimesters are identi-
cal, and the student carries as full
a work load in July as in Novem-
Two-Term Appointments
Teachers are hired for two-
term appointments, paid one-half
more for teaching the third
In order to gain the time for
the expanded schedule, vacations
have been cut to the bone, and
final exam periods have been
abolished. Now the only vacations
are August, Thanksgiving, two
weeks at Christmas after the end
of the first trimester and a week-
end in April between the second
and third trimesters.
Pitt had three "philosophic"
reasons for initiating its experi-
ment, Edison Montgomery, assist-
ant to Pitt Chancellor Edward H.
Litchfield, explained,
"Philosophic" Reasons
"We feel our objective at Pitt
is to cater to a student public in-
terested in a liberal and a profes-
sional A.B.... the arts are needed,
but it takes too long to do both.
We had to reduce th'e time."
(A normal four-year education
under the semester calendar may
be completed in two and two-
thirds years under the trimester
He adds, "In many fields the
scope of knowledge has expanded
so much that even in the cus-
tomary time, students can't cope
with the subject matter" The
compressed program will help al-
leviate this.
Already Mature
He is convinced that "the pres-
ent educational pattern does not
permit proper coinciding of the
maturation process and the end
of education." Many students are
already mature, Montgomery said,
but are still in school.
Pitt also had three practical
reasons for ,initiating trimester
1) The population bulge.
2) A faculty shortage. "The
faculty will stretch further un-
der a trimester system, Montgom-
ery explained. "Unless this is
done, we won't have enough."
(One way a faculty can be
"stretched" further: A professor,
who, under a two-semester and
summer session plan, would teach
classes of 100, 100 and 20 would
with trimesters, teach classes of
100, 100 and 100.
Increases Production
3) Cost. Analyzing this in busi-
ness terms, Montgomery said tri-
mesters become a matter of "in-

before they had one and one-half specify "years of study," but Pitt
months, professional graduates would have
i'sed to Idea the same amount of instruction
By the second term, most fac- in less time than the specified
ulty were used to the idea, so number of "years," which are
complaints of too much work dicated on a semester calendar.
stopped Pitt is negotiating to remove these
Answer problem-"one thing we hurdles.
haven't licked yet." according to (There is one reason why most
MVontgomery-is the final exami- of the graduate professional
nation period, schools are still on the old semes-
When Pitt originated trimester, ter system. Pitt had planned that,
with no final period, the adminis- this year, only freshmen and
tration said to the faculty-"in a sophomore courses would be on
most unhelpful way" Montgomery trimesters, upper class courses.
said-that it would have to find next year, and graduate courses,
other ways to evaluate students. the year after that.
About one-half have done this, However, the plan has been well
but the other half-mostly in sci- enough accepted so that almost
entific disciplines-refused, giving all of the undergraduate college
finals over two class periods. and a smattering of the profes-
(Pitt's old final schedule called sional schools are on trimesters )
for two-hour exams.) Some stu-
dents had four finals in one day. Athletic Eligibility
Cannot Be Ignored A last obstacle Pitt has met is
Half the faculty cannot be ig- the athletic eligibility problem. If
nored, Montgomery pointed out, he took all three trimesters, an
and he suggested Pitt may have athlete would finish his under-
to return to a final exam period. graduate career without exhaust-
Professors who have "outgrown" ing his eligibility. But NCAA rules
the final exam may do other forbid graduate students from
things during this time-such as competition.
summarize the course. They will One reason why Pitt officials
be encouraged to hold the classes consider the trimester schedule a
whether or not they are giving success is the heavy registration
finals, for the summer term. Montgom-
The necessary time for a final ery said Pitt would have been
exam week would be obtained by satisfied with 1,200 full time
a lengthening of normal class equivalent students, but got 3,200.
periods from 50 to 60 minutes, A good reason for the heavy
cutting out the last period each acceptance is that Pitt tailored
day, when only about seven or the new calendar with an eye to
eight classes meet anyway. add to the summer term "some-
A faculty committee is still thing dramatic to make it more
considering the problem, and stu- than an extra session."
dents are being polled.I It made no effort to serve local
Accreditation Problem semester students who wanted to
A third problem Pitt has ipet take summer school; now it only
is the accreditation problem for offers summer courses for school
professional studies such as law teachers. (Outside students may
and medicine, State laws, and take these courses, but form only
regulations of professional society a small part of total enrollment.)

tions on campus, .the Universi
on a trimester calendar, The pla
creases the University's capacity1
creasing production without in-
creasing overhead proportional-
Pitt would have initiated the
trimester, schedule because of the
philosophic reasons alone, Mont-
gomery added.
. "We found utterances of disad-
vantages to the plan," he said,
"but I personally don't believe
them and discount them."
Work Too Hard?
Some critics said trimester,
would make students work too
hard, that nine months per year
is enough for a student to work,
an argument Montgomery dis-
missed as "utter nonsense" since
the student will work over 11
months per year after gradua-
Others warned education would
be diluted by the reduction of
classes. Montgomery said the
compression from 16 to 15 weeks,
is "minor, with no educational
values lost."
Actually, with the loss of holi-
days, a trimester is only three
hours short of a semester. "We
don't think education is a func-
tion of hours," Montgomery said
"Experience to date indicates
we're right."
Professors' Work
A third objection was that pro-
fessors could not work a full'
year as they would miss research
time and it would be too wear-
ing. Montgomery says Pitt recog-
nizes the validity of at least the
first-loss of research time-"so
we're not going to let teachers
teach three terms year after
How much time off a man will
get then becomes an individual
case, adding to the problems of
the deans. "The deans will now

ting to alleviate crowded condi-
ty of Pittsburgh now operates
an, initiated last September, In-
by 50 per cent.
become real personnel managers,"
Montgomery predicted.
Anyway, time loss, at least from
research, will not be great, Mont-
gomery argued. Under the semes-
ter system, a teacher gets three
months vacation. If he teaches
only two trimesters, he gets four
and one-half months off.
Faculty Opposition
Breaks every two or three years
tend to make up for three months
off every year, he explained.
Mont:,omery said there was
much faculty opposition at first,
but it was unorganized. However,
he added, "I think I'm safe in
saying most opposition disappear-
ed after the first trimester."
What remained mostly disap-
peared when professors "realized
they could quit April 15."
Students Favorable
Student opinion, as represented
by a poll Pitt conducted, has been
quite favorable. "And why not?"
Montgomery asked: those who
like can get finished in less than
three years, and those who are not
interested in speeding up have a
"longer free period to loaf, work,
or study independently."
"I guess that most of the sum-
mer jobs in the area were gotten
by Pitt people who were available
for summer work two months
early," he added.
However, Montgomery points
out "this doesn't mean there
weren't plenty of gripes." Most
of these were against individual
professors, who during the first
trimester realized at Thanksgiv-
ing time they had two to three
weeks to complete a course, when

J {

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