On Hartman Green, a student dashes across the lawn to catch a 12:30 p.m. class. Not far away, several faculty members enter the Steinman College Center for lunch in the Buchanan Room. Meanwhile, students hurry down the stairs of Steinman to check their mailboxes before embarking on their busy afternoon schedules.
It's a typical midday scene at Franklin & Marshall College. Starting in January, however, members of the campus community will undertake a shared journey each Thursday at lunchtime—to Common Hour in Mayser Gymnasium.
A new era at the College begins on Jan. 21, when F&M holds its inaugural Common Hour from 11:30 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. The weekly, campus-wide gathering will provide time for the entire College community to attend events without the constraints of other obligations. Programs will include discussions, presentations, performances and other events that will appeal to a broad spectrum of the community.
"The idea behind the Common Hour is that everyone is always so busy, going their separate ways, that there ought to be a time when we can all get together," says Stephen Medvic, associate professor of government and chair of the Common Hour planning committee. "And I mean we—students, faculty, staff and administrators. This is a shared intellectual experience for everyone."
At the inaugural Jan. 21 event, Terry Madonna, director of the Floyd Institute's Center for Politics and Public Affairs, will moderate a panel discussion with Kenneth Duberstein '65, P'09, P'13, chairman and chief executive officer of the Duberstein Group, and former U.S. Rep. William Gray '63. The topic of the discussion will be the first year of the Obama administration.
Members of the faculty approved the establishment of the Common Hour last spring. Over the summer, Faculty Council put together a committee to implement the weekly event. The committee includes five faculty members, two staff members and two students.
"A lot of people debated long and hard about this," Medvic says. "This affects the start and end of classes, labs and seminars. Most people thought it was a good idea, but many were concerned about the details."
No classes, events or meetings will be held during the Common Hour each Thursday. Afternoon classes will begin at 12:45 p.m. And because the Tuesday schedule mirrors Thursday in the academic schedule, a Free Hour exists between 11:30 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. during which no classes or formal meetings will be scheduled each Tuesday. "That might be a nice time for brown bag discussions, club meetings or other gatherings," Medvic says.
The first few Common Hour events represent the diversity that Medvic hopes will define the weekly gathering. Following the Jan. 21 panel discussion, events include:
The full slate of events for next semester is available on the Common Hour Web site.
"It's not entertainment, although it may be entertaining," Medvic says. "We hope people will realize the value in having that shared experience. The expectation is that everyone should attend. This is what it means to be a liberal arts college."