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Blocks, crowds part of Ohio State semester switch

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When OSU switched to semesters, some OSU community members felt campus was busier. Credit: Daniel Chi / For The Lantern

When OSU switched to semesters, some OSU community members felt campus was busier. Credit: Daniel Chi / For The Lantern

The shift from quarters to semesters during the 2012-2013 school year brought change throughout Ohio State’s campus. From planned adjustments to unforeseen issues, there were more changes to OSU than just the academic calendar, and some of those differences caused problems for students.

Meal plan switch

One of the changes OSU made last year to accommodate for the additional length of semesters was a change in the campus meal plan.

OSU changed from “swipes” under the quarter system to “blocks” with semesters, initially offering plans of 450 and 600 blocks. These block plans, however, left many students with an excess of blocks during the Autumn Semester.

In response to students having excess blocks, OSU gave students a $3 refund per block in BuckID cash for Autumn Semester only, while also adding a 350-block plan option for Spring 2013.

The university changed meal plans again for the 2013-2014 school year. OSU eliminated the 600-block plan and added plans that offer weekly block allotments of either 25 or 20. OSU also split the “unlimited” meal plan into two options, giving students the choice of a meal plan that offers either 10 or four blocks per week in addition to unlimited access to the three Traditions dining locations on campus.

Kelly Hogan, a third-year in theatre, said she thought the original meal plan options last year were “terrible.”

“There were no options, you had to pick the huge meal plan and I have a small appetite so that didn’t work for me,” Hogan said. “When they switched it (in Spring Semester) and gave us more options, I think it’s way better now, although it’s still too expensive.”

Hogan said she had many excess blocks at the end of Autumn Semester, and thought the refund was “kind of silly.”

“It wasn’t a real refund,” Hogan said. “We only got $3 back (per swipe), and it was only on our BuckID.”

Effie Wang, a third-year in accounting, said she liked the change from swipes to blocks last year.

“I think it’s actually good that they changed it to blocks,” Wang said. “With swipes, it’s not that convenient, since you can’t just buy a cup of coffee, but now with the blocks, you can actually do that, so I think it’s a good change.”

Seemingly crowded campus

Another issue some connected to the semester shift was a different and seemingly more crowded flow of foot and vehicle traffic throughout campus during the school day, which caused some challenges for campus transportation.

Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for OSU Administration and Planning, said research by OSU’s Traffic Safety Task Force showed the crowds of students are not actually larger on semesters than they were on quarters, but with most students taking five semester classes as opposed to three quarter classes, there is a more sustained volume of students traveling to and from classes throughout the day.

“That was actually one of the things that the task force looked at because they had heard a lot of comments about the campus seeming more crowded,” Komlanc said. “It is actually comparable between semesters and quarters, but the additional class load results in sustained volume throughout the day and the week.”

Hogan said she thought that the campus streets were more crowded during semesters, but Wang said she hasn’t noticed a difference in the amount of people on campus.

“I feel like the amount of people (didn’t) really change that much,” Wang said.

Ben Crawford, a third-year in finance, agreed, but said he tries to avoid crowded streets by getting to class early.

“As long as you just walk when you should and give yourself at least five minutes to walk across campus,” Crawford said.

OSU created the Traffic Safety Task Force last September after three traffic incidents on or adjacent to campus left OSU students with major injuries.

One specific change OSU made in an effort to avoid traffic accidents between motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, Komlanc said, was the addition of a traffic light at the intersection of 12th Avenue and College Road, a four-way intersection adjacent to the Ohio Union and South Oval.

OSU also implemented a “Walk Zone” policy that started April 17 and requires bicyclists and skateboarders to dismount when crossing the Oval and South Oval as a traffic safety measure.

Student fee refund

Another area in which OSU had to make adjustments during the semester year was to the breakdown of fees charged to students each year.

In a pledge to undergraduate students prior to the semester switch, OSU said “full-time tuition (general and instructional fees) for an academic year under semesters will not cost more than tuition for that same year would have cost under quarters,” according to the Office of Academic Affairs website. In order to satisfy that promise for the first year, however, OSU issued an up to $81 refund to students enrolled in classes during the 2013 summer term, including both May Session and Summer Session students.

Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp said he and fellow student government leaders pushed for a refund to hold the university accountable to his pledge.

“In our opinion, (the fee increase) violated the pledge to students,” Stepp said. “It was pretty clear to the administration that that was not what was supposed to happen, and they made the change … they were very helpful working with us.”

University Registrar Brad Myers explained that OSU originally charged semester fees during the summer term because the university viewed the term as being closer to a semester than a quarter.

“The amount of time isn’t quite as long as a regular semester, but it’s definitely longer than a quarter was,” Myers said regarding the summer term. “You’re still getting the same credit for three hours in the summer that you would for three hours in the fall or the spring, and the length of each of the terms is not exactly the same. We’re trying to look fairly consistently across those three terms, so the original fee assessment structure was set up in the summer to parallel the other two semesters.”

The refund only applied to four fees that Myers called “term-based,” in that they were directly tied to the student’s enrollment during a particular term and not to the number of credit hours being taken.

The adjusted full-time student fees for summer term 2013 became $25 for student activities, $51 for the student union fees, $9 for COTA and $82 for recreation, which were the previous fee costs under the final year of quarters. Full-time student fees for Autumn 2012 and Spring 2013 were $37.50 for student activities, $74.40 for the student union fee, $13.50 for COTA and a $123 recreation fee.

While OSU issued the refund to keep the university’s commitment to hold students financially harmless during the transitional year to semesters, Myers said summer term fees could increase in 2014.

“My understanding is that the Council on Student Affairs is going to talk about those fees with the Student Life leadership,” Myers said. “The pledge was a transitional pledge. In other words, we basically tried to hold fees stable for this transitional year. That wasn’t a promise forever. Fees are likely to go up on an incremental basis based on what happens with costs at the institution, what happens with subsidy from the state, so fees are re-evaluated every year on an ongoing basis.”

OSU’s second year following the conversion to semesters began Wednesday with the first day of classes.

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