January 6, 2007

Three credits closer

Winter session classes give students an intense opportunity to get ahead


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland Martial Arts instructor Tom Fuchs (left) leads students learning self-defense Friday morning.

Staff Reporter

Taking classes for two weeks during the winter break may seem like punishment, but for the 428 students enrolled at SUNY Cortland — most cramming in a three-credit class that meets four hours a day, five days a week for 10 days — there is some benefit.
Classes range from Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries to Fundamentals of Public Speaking. There are also independent study or internship opportunities for many majors to earn one to three credits. And, for those looking to fulfill activity requirements, four one-credit classes in self-defense, dance, soccer and softball are available.
In all, 34 classes are taught, 15 of which are online, said Yvonne Murnane, director of the winter session. In addition to the 34 classes, Murnane said there are seven independent studies, three internships, and two study abroad opportunities, one to Mexico, and the other to Belize, led by President Erik Bitterbaum.
For those taking classes on campus, the hub of academic activity is on the lower campus in the Park Center and Studio West. Classes are held in these two buildings to save on heating costs.
Murnane said taking beginning levels of languages attract several students. “Students want to take them in a concentrated program,” she said.
Students taking a beginning Spanish class this winter said they were taking it because they needed the class. “We’re doing it because we have to,” said Melissa Wright, who is a sophomore at St. Joseph’s College.
The college is also trying to encourage instructors to offer and students to take online courses promoting them as classes students “can take in their pajamas,” Murnane said. She said the college is offering more online classes in both the winter and summer sessions. “This way students can go back home and still take the courses at Cortland,” said Murnane. She said students could have jobs at home.
For one student interviewed, taking an online course was not an option. “I like the face-to-face contact,” Morgan Lewis, of Homer, said. “I like lectures.” She said she tried to take a course online, but dropped it. “I had to take it in person.”
Lewis was taking both Rhythm and Dance and Self Defense and Martial Arts, with Tom Fuchs. Both are 80-minute classes. She said she liked taking these classes during the winter because it is harder to fit the classes in during a regular schedule.
“They eat up time — two hours a week,” the physical education major said of the regular semester schedule, making it harder to schedule three-credit classes around them. She said both the dance and self-defense course were required.
“I want to graduate in three years instead of four,” Lewis, a sophomore, also said.
One student took the self-defense class to make up credits and because Fuchs is one of his favorite teachers. Chris Dapolito, a junior, said the activity class was the first winter class he had taken. He said he moved into off-campus housing early to take the class, paying an extra $200.
During the winter session, campus housing is closed, but the college contracts with the Country Inn & Suites to provide housing for 14 days for $250. Murnane said only about six or seven students do this. Most of the students either commute or live in off-campus housing.
Most students had graduation in mind in their reason to take winter classes.
Matthew Robinson, a senior from Tully, said he has taken winter and summer session classes every year. The kinesiology/fitness development major is taking the course on the care and prevention of athletic injuries. “This one, in particular, is so I can graduate this spring,” he said.
He said taking winter and summer classes allows him to take fewer credits during regular semesters.
“It takes longer for me to get around,” said Robinson, who is in a wheelchair.
Robinson, 39, said he takes required courses in the winter and tries to take the hardest classes, such as anatomy and physiology and biology. He said taking one course during the condensed timeframe allows him to concentrate just on that one class.
“I’m taking it so I can graduate in May,” Rachael Caskey, a senior dual education major and social science minor, said about the geography class she was taking.
She needed a social science class for her minor. Caskey, from Newfield, said she has also taken classes in the summer to fit in all the courses she needs to take.
“Classes are just as hard, no matter when you take them, at least in my opinion,” said Caskey, 28, who is also a mother to three children.
Matt Beattie, another senior, said he wanted to learn more about the environment in the course, Will the World Provide? He was also taking the class this winter so he could graduate a year early. He said the geography class did not seem too difficult. Beattie said one summer he took a physics class that met for three hours and was directly followed with a three-hour lab. “That was crazy,” he said.
Associate Professor Scott Anderson, who teaches the geography class, said almost all the seniors who take the class in the winter need it to graduate. He said there were a few juniors taking it and one or two sophomores.
“It’s an opportunity to teach what I don’t normally teach,” Anderson said of the summer and winter classes. He said he does teach this class to freshmen during the regular semesters. In the summer he teaches graduate classes that he normally doesn’t.
“I’ve been doing this one for about five years now,” Tom Fuchs said of his course, Self Defense and Martial Arts.
“There’s been a need,” he said for one reason he teaches it. He said the course — a requirement for physical education majors and popular for non-majors, too — often fills up during the semester. Some winters he has 20 or 21 students; this winter he is teaching 12 or 13, he said.
Fuchs, a full-time lecturer at the college, said another reason he teaches during the winter and summer is the additional money. “It’s nice to have a little extra money,” he said.
Fuchs said students who take the course in the winter often need an additional credit to graduate, are taking it because it is required or are trying to get ahead.
He said the class teaches “the grammar — the basics — of self-defense.” He said for example, there are different techniques he teaches if you are grabbed. A basic when grabbed is to work against the thumb, not the four fingers, of the person grabbing you. Friday in class, students started learning how to break a fall, near the end of the session.
“They tend to be the better students during the winter,” Fuchs said.
Murnane said the college has held winter classes for 11 years now and the number of students has ranged from 380 to 449. She said in the last three years each year the college has added a few more online classes.


Arcuri adamant about no troop increase

Freshman congressman backs Democratic bills that tighten House ethics, spending  rules

Staff Reporter

Sworn into office Thursday, swamped with orientations, initial committee meetings and an already busy legislative agenda, freshman Congressman Mike Arcuri, elected out of the 24th District in November, said he was still just trying to let the various aspects of his new job soak in.
“Last night I was on the floor for two hours, today for another hour, just watching the process, just trying to get acclimated to all the procedures and protocols,” Arcuri said Friday. “It’s been really exciting, just an incredible experience — yesterday (after his swearing in) was like cramming a week’s worth of events into one day.”
Arcuri’s first days as a congressman were hectic, he said, especially considering the emphasis the new Democratic majority he’s a part of is putting on early legislative action.
“Yesterday we spent most of the day on rules and ethics, but today we were already moving on to a “pay as you go” statute, and changing the way we do earmarks,” he said.
Legislation passed by Congress Friday as part of its “First 100 Hour” agenda — legislation the Democrats wanted to complete in their first 100 hours in session — included rules that require legislators to publicly disclose all earmarks they secure for their districts, and a rule requiring that all tax cuts or increases in entitlement programs like Medicare would have to have corresponding tax increases, or equal cuts in spending.
“We felt very strongly that you have to run the people’s house the same way you run your own house, and I’m very proud to have supported that,” Arcuri said.
In the coming weeks, House Democrats will push an agenda that includes increasing the national minimum wage and slashing interest rates on college loans, two issues on which Arcuri said he intended to speak on the House floor.
“Those are a couple of things that are obviously critical measures for our district,” Arcuri said. “Cutting the student loan interest rates is really like a middle class tax break and I think it will really help people in our area.”
Arcuri said he also wanted to be closely involved in House Democrat’s efforts to get a bill passed that will allow federally funded embryonic stem-cell research.
“It will be essentially the same bill as the one the president used his veto on (in September), but hopefully this time he’ll feel some pressure from the new majority,” Arcuri said.
With rumors circling that President Bush will soon be announcing an increase in troop levels in Iraq, Arcuri said he would in no way support an increase, and suggested the House could influence Bush through its control on military spending.
“I will not, under any circumstances, turn my back on the troops, I would never support cutting funding that would make sure they get everything they need, but we need to be doing everything we can to help bring them home,” Arcuri said. “Obviously the president is the commander in chief, but Congress does appropriate funding, and hopefully we can work together to change direction and begin a phased withdrawal of the troops.”
Stem-cell research, minimum wage and college loan interest rates were all issues Arcuri brought up during his campaign, and he said they were common threads among his House colleagues.
“Those were things that many of us around the country were talking about independently, but they kind of evolved as a sort of mantra for the party,” he said.
When not voting and debating on the House floor, Arcuri has been meeting with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he is hoping to be appointed to the economic development subcommittee, and is awaiting a second committee appointment.
He said that his first day on the floor, when his two teenage children were allowed to be with him as he voted for new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, was a particular thrill.
“I was telling my daughter, we’re looking at the first woman Speaker, the first Italian American Speaker, this is really historic,” he said. “That was pretty special having my kids with me on the floor.”
Marion Reed, a spokesman for the congressman, said Arcuri and his staff were still working on setting up a district office in Cortland, where retired Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, who Arcuri replaced, had an office for years.
“The congressman will definitely be setting up a satellite office in Cortland, and the location and staffing should be announced in the next few weeks,” Reed said.