Northwestern University Faculty Call for Overhaul of the Quarter System

Proposed changes to their quarter system reflect concerns at UChicago.

By Olivia Rosenzweig

A recent proposal by Northwestern University faculty to revamp the quarter system has led some students and faculty at UChicago to weigh in on the value of a quarter system education.

A committee of students, faculty, and administrators at Northwestern recently released a proposal to overhaul their quarter system. According to an article in The Daily Northwestern, the proposal includes pushing the start of the fall quarter back five weeks into August. As a result, spring quarter would end earlier, allowing NU students to have a summer break that starts mid-May and ends mid-August, as is typical at most semester-based universities.

The new plan would also break up the winter quarter, so that students would have five weeks of class, a break, and then five more weeks of class. This proposal has been dubbed the “10-5-5-10” calendar.

Northwestern first-year Ruthie Charendoff weighed in on the state of her university’s calendar as it currently stands. “I really like the quarter system in that it allows me to take way more classes than other schools,” Charendoff said. “But on the other hand, the fact that we do the same amount of coursework as a semester school in 10 weeks instead of 15 can get a little heavy…I feel like both Northwestern and UChicago spend a lot more time working because of the quarter system.”       

Charendoff also added that the late end to spring quarter interferes with a lot of summer internships and jobs that assume students work according to a semester system.

Mary Abowd, Campus and Student Life News Officer at UChicago, has confirmed that there are no current plans to alter UChicago’s academic calendar. “The quarter system has been in place since the University’s founding and no formal discussion about amending it has occurred since 1997,” she said. 

Northwestern’s proposal led The Maroon to ask students and faculty at UChicago about their thoughts on the value of our quarter system.        

“Having gone to undergrad with a semester system, I think you’re able to do better long-term research [on the semester system],” Kara Peruccio, a PhD student in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, said. “If the quarter system is to stay the same I think it would be beneficial to end the quarter before Thanksgiving because that puts a lot of financial hardships on people, especially if you can’t travel home for Thanksgiving and then travel home for Christmas break.” She added that this vacation extension would also be helpful from a mental health perspective.  

Third-year Ayelet Pinnolis likes how the quarter system allows her to explore many different areas of interest, but said, “I don’t know if the actual act of having quarters is especially integral to our school.”

“I don’t think it’s a bad system in and of itself,” said Kay Heikkinen, a lecturer of Arabic, “From the point of view of faculty, it does mean you’re always having midterms and finals and term papers, but of course for students it’s the same too.”