Taking a stand: Jan Plan scheduling needs change

With the fall semester wrapping up in just a few weeks, attention is beginning to shift to the upcoming JanPlan. JanPlan, which was originally introduced at Colby in 1962 and was the first of its kind, has since spread to other colleges and universities throughout the nation.  There’s no doubting the steadfast popularity of JanPlan—although only three years of JanPlan are required—over 90 percent of students opt to participate for their fourth year. But perhaps this statistic would be bumped even higher if there was a wider selection of class times from which students could choose from.  

In their mission statement, the College states how the “fundamental purpose of the January Program is to broaden and extend the learning experience at Colby by offering students distinctive opportunities not ordinarily available during the traditional academic semesters.” It is precisely this stress on escaping the traditional, didactic learning experience typical of any college that motivates Colby students to branch out into more experimental opportunities during JanPlan.  Unfortunately, students wishing to enjoy more flexible daily schedules are severely limited in course selection options. This year, more than 100 total courses were available for registration, covering a wide variety of interests and meeting times. However, from this large pool of courses, only four offer start times at or after 2 P.M., and of those classes, only two offered start times at 3 P.M.

If nothing more, including more afternoon and evening JanPlan courses would certainly act as a distraction from the reaper’s icy hand slowly closing its grasp on the students who have not yet become acclimated with the Maine winters.  More realistically, a broader selection for class times would open up one’s schedule, allowing for a student to accomplish their goals during the day without interruption, and then go to their class. For those particularly motivated students, this shift would make possible the option to enroll in a JanPlan course as well as participate in an internship for the month of January, which is growing increasingly popular.  Holding class during the afternoon and evening would also theoretically make for a larger pool of potential instructors to be reached, since those with limited schedules may be able to hold class after normal business hours. Some instructors may even have the possibility of teaching two courses, one during the day and one during the evening.

During JanPlan, non-athletes, who make up the majority of Colby’s student body, will rarely have regular commitments between 3 P.M.  and 7 P.M. These hours are oftentimes not taken full advantage of, whereas spending the rare daylight hours between sunrise, around 7 A.M., and sunset, around 4 P.M., inside a classroom can become disheartening and bleak.  For these students, one hugely popular attraction is the close proximity to local ski mountains.

In fact, one major argument for broadening options for afternoon and evening classes is the abundance of Colby’s recreational skiers and snowboarders who wish to take advantage of the limited courseload in Jan. and make it up to the mountain.  There is a longtime tradition of skiing and snowboarding at Colby, due in part to the fact that the major mountains closest to campus are widely regarded as two of the best mountains on the East Coast. Most students’ go-to destination is Sugarloaf Mountain, which lies about an hour and 15 minutes away from Colby’s campus.  Sunday River is another popular choice for students, but it is farther away from the College.

Typically, enrolling in a JanPlan class has meant that students hoping to make day trips to Sugarloaf or Sunday River are, for the most part, restricted to only the days during which their class is not held.  Offering a more robust selection of afternoon and evening classes could effectively make available the entire morning and most of the afternoon during the week, which is generally when skiers and snowboarders go to the mountains.  

Having class start in the evening also allows for the possibility of skiing during the week at Sunday River, which is a rare opportunity.  It takes nearly two hours to get to Sunday River, which necessitates about four hours of driving in total during a day. This in essence rules out the possibility of skiing during the week and relegates Sunday River to a weekend-only visit.  However, expanding afternoon and evening course options would be an effective remediation.

It is worth noting that the longer, six or eight-hour per day courses are unable to realistically hold class starting as late as 3 P.M.  Intensive courses such as EMT Training, Firefighting, and Applied Biomedical Genomics, all of which meet for a full 40 hours per week, would of course not be able to shift toward evening times. However, a significant proportion of the students who remain on Colby’s campus during Jan. would enjoy the option of wider selection for class schedules, so it is certainly reasonable to see some changes in the coming years.  Regardless, this year’s JanPlan, as always, gives students a great experience to look forward to as the semester comes to an end.