Senate approves changes to U-C academic calendar

By Sky Opila

The Urbana-Champaign Senate approved a proposal to change the academic calendar at yesterday’s meeting.

The approved proposal focuses on changing the reading day. Currently, the reading day for fall semester falls on a Saturday. The new changes, which will go into effect fall 2008, will change the structure of finals week to ensure that reading day will fall on a weekday, said Ryan Ruzic, Illinois Student Senate co-president.

“The changes will break up finals week so that reading day falls on a Thursday, one day of finals on Friday, a full weekend and then the rest of the finals,” Ruzic said.

However, this change did not come about easily, he said. It has been proposed and changed for at least the past six years.

“This has been an issue since my freshman year, and even then, there were seniors who had been dealing with it since their freshman year,” Ruzic said.

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Abbas Aminmansour, chairman of the Urbana-Champaign Senate committee on educational policy, said this final proposal did not happen without a lot of work adjusting the heavily structured schedule.

“With the need to fit our current curriculum of 72 instructional days, plus state holidays such as Thanksgiving, there was a lot of give and take between faculty and students,” he said.

With that in mind, the Illinois Student Senate created a task force to explore possible solutions. Ideas such as having one less instructional day and splitting Thanksgiving break were some of the first proposed ideas, Ruzic said.

“The faculty did not agree with losing one instructional day, and the Thanksgiving break split brought up a larger debate,” he said.

Josh Rohrscheib, student body co-president, said that splitting the break so that there would be a few days off around Thanksgiving and before finals week seemed to be a good proposal at first.

“(The Illinois Student Senate) liked the idea of splitting up Thanksgiving break to make an easier finals week, but the out-of-state students spoke out against issues with travel,” Rohrscheib said.

Out-of-state students make up about 13 percent of the University’s student body. After presenting their case, the Urbana-Champaign Senate opposed the splitting of Thanksgiving break, said Hassen Al-Shawaf, graduate student senator.

“Changing two days around doesn’t seem to be a big deal in theory, but there are so many variables that go along with those days, making it difficult to play around with,” Al-Shawaf said.

Once the Thanksgiving split was off the table, the Illinois Student Senate went back to the drawing board. One new idea was to shorten the length of finals from three hours to two hours, Ruzic said.

“(The Illinois Student Senate) figured that changing the amount of time allotted for finals would help shorten the week; hence, squeezing in the reading day,” Ruzic said.

The proposal was opposed after a plea from physics students who said their exams had three questions that took one hour each, Ruzic said.

Finally, the Illinois Student Senate formulated a plan that would work for students and faculty, Al-Shawaf said.

“There was a considerable amount of work to be done, and after hearing a lot of opposing interest and a lot of compromise, (the students) got what we wanted, and the faculty got what they wanted,” Al-Shawaf said.

The focus of all this work has been to keep the students’ best interests in mind. Al-Shawaf said he feels that the extra day off for studying will directly affect students’ grades.

“Since it gives students an extra day to study and pull off better grades, we have done our job,” Al-Shawaf said. “(The Illinois Student Senate) really made that day for students who are very serious about studying and getting good grades.”

Some students in attendance, such as Lauren Etmekjian, freshman in ALS, said they were happy with the passed proposal.

“It’s a good thing because the reading day will serve its purpose as a day of study, rather than a regular Saturday,” Etmekjian said. “I think if students get the special day off to study, they will be generally more motivated.”