Proposed academic schedule shortens winter break and alters finals schedule

The 2012-2013 academic year will begin almost a week later than this year but will still end at about the same time.

The ability to start later but end on time is possible because of two changes in the calendar: winter break will be a week shorter and the fall semester final exam dates will include a Saturday.

The start and end dates were decided on in 2007 and was set in respect to the beginning of the contract year. 

“Adequate time is needed between August 16 (the beginning of teaching assistant training) and the first day of classes to accommodate programs like teaching assistant orientation and new student registration to avoid conflicts with nine-month employment contracts,” according to a document released by the Academic Senate regarding the proposed calendar.

Gay Miller, chair of the Academic Senate’s educational policy committee, or EPC, said in an email that deciding upon this calendar created a challenge for the committee within the academic senate.

“There is not an easy or necessarily elegant solution for revising next fall semester’s 2012 calendar,” she said.

The committee considered beginning the year earlier, shortening Thanksgiving break, eliminating Reading Day or starting the spring semester a week later, but it ultimately decided that shortening winter break and holding finals on a Saturday was the best option. The final exam period will end on a Thursday, a day earlier than this year.

This final exam schedule compresses the time instructors have to submit final grades. The committee said that this shortened timeline should not be a problem for instructors.

“The EPC thought that faculty would be able to deal with a period of time that is one day shorter between when final examinations end and when grades are due,” Miller said.

Students have not had to take finals on a Saturday in years past. The EPC said that with adequate notice of this new calendar, hardship on students can be minimized.

Saturday finals also raised concern among students and faculty members who have religious obligations on Saturdays. Anyone who wishes to be exempt from Saturday finals or to modify these finals should “inform his or her instructors of the conflict within a week after being informed of the examination schedule,” according to the University’s student code.

A shorter winter break is another noticeable characteristic of the new calendar. Alexander Senetar, sophomore, is supportive of the change as it will allow for an effective use of time.

“A shorter break means we can get back to everything sooner,” he said.

The committee stands by the decision of shortening winter break by one week.

“In balance, the proposed solution was the best one,” Miller said.