Faculty pass motion to make Mountain Day permanent

At last Wednesday’s faculty meeting, the faculty passed a motion ensuring the existence of Mountain Day in the October calendar. This calendar decision was chosen to alleviate concern surrounding the possibility of canceling classes on the last Friday of the fall semester if the weather does not allow for Mountain Day in October.

As the official motion reads, “In the event that Mountain Day does not occur on one of the first two Fridays of October, classes will be canceled the third Friday of October regardless of weather, and we will attempt to have a Mountain Day with weather-appropriate activities. Classes will not be canceled on the last Friday of the fall semester.”

Discussions about revising the policy began after the confusion surrounding last semester’s Mountain Day. After former Interim President Wagner’s e-mail explaining that the last Friday of classes would be canceled if the weather proved inclement on all possible days for Mountain Day, Jon Bakija, associate professor of economics and chair of the Calendar and Scheduling Committee, received many calls and e-mails from faculty members. “Many professors had important things scheduled for the last day of classes,” Bakija said. “They hadn’t realized that canceling that day was a possibility.”

The discrepancy came from a lack of clarity in the two previous provisions concerning Mountain Day. Before the 2000-01 academic year, fall semester classes ended on a Thursday, but in 1999 the faculty passed a motion instating Mountain Day on one Friday in the fall and extending the semester to include that final Friday. Subsequently, in 2001, the faculty passed another motion restricting Mountain Day to one of the first three Fridays in October.  Nowhere was it clarified what the procedure would be if none of the three Fridays proved suitable for Mountain Day.

“Revising the policy makes scheduling the day much less of a hassle,” Bakija said. “Now there are only three days professors have to be concerned about instead of four.”

Although revising the policy was put on the Calendar and Scheduling Committee’s agenda soon after Mountain Day, it wasn’t officially raised until earlier this winter.  Bakija then drafted a motion and sent it to Scott Lewis, director of the Williams Outing Club (WOC).  The Outing Club was generally supportive of the motion.

“It certainly has saved the anxiety caused by multiple Fridays without Mountain Day-worthy weather,” Lewis said. “If you keep [scheduling] ambiguous, there will be an undercurrent of ill will.”

However, since the policy requires that Mountain Day take place on the third Friday in October if it isn’t called earlier, it may lessen the excitement leading up to the day. Students will know for sure that Mountain Day is approaching on that third Friday if it hasn’t already happened.

“Personally, I’ve always been of the school of thought that if one of the first three Fridays isn’t good, there shouldn’t be Mountain Day,” Lewis said. “It’s supposed to take place on a beautiful fall day, and this takes the spontaneity and suspense out of the day if we have to wait until the last possible Friday.”

The policy also means that Mountain Day may indeed take place on a day with inclement weather, which would change the nature of the day’s activities. WOC is hopeful that students would still be encouraged to participate in such a revised day.

“If the first Friday doesn’t work out, we’d start preparing an alternate Mountain Day schedule in addition to the regular one,” said Ali DeMarchis ’10, president of the WOC Board. “This year was stressful because we had to plan a new kind of day so quickly, but in the future we’ll have more time if we need it.” Lewis added that whereas in the past Mountain Day always took place on a beautiful day, “we may need to redefine beautiful now.”

For all the changes it may perpetuate, however, Lewis and the WOC board are encouraged by the faculty’s support for the proposal. “Mountain Day has been brought into question many times before, so it’s good to see that now it’s almost written in stone,” Lewis said. “Because of this new policy, Mountain Day will undoubtedly happen.”

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