24, No. 14, Feb. 3, 2005
committee considers changes to academic calendar
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
Hearing to Discuss Academic Calendar
4 to 6 p.m. Feb.
7 Room 100
People who have suggestions or concerns about the
calendar are invited to voice them at the hearing
or contact the senate by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faculty and staff
members and students can voice their suggestions and concerns about
the academic calendar for the Urbana campus at a public hearing Feb.
The Task Group for Review of Academic Calendar Guidelines has been reviewing
the policies that govern Urbana’s academic calendar on behalf
of the Senate Committee on Educational Policy and has forwarded its
recommendations to the committee. As part of its deliberations, the
Educational Policy Committee has scheduled a forum so that members of
the campus community can offer input.
The academic calendar has generated much discussion at senate meetings
throughout the years, and members of the Educational Policy Committee
thought “it might be a good idea to revisit the issue and see
if we can come up with any suggestions or recommendations for changes,”
said Abbas Aminmansour, chair of the committee and a professor of architecture.
The task group, which comprised a cross-section of the campus community
and included two student members, reviewed the calendars of other Big
Ten universities and peer institutions, including Michigan, North Carolina,
Wisconsin and the University of California’s Los Angeles and San
Although the task group provided several recommendations for the Educational
Policy Committee to consider, the committee wants to hear from other
members of the campus community before deciding if Urbana’s policies
on the academic calendar should change, and if so, what those changes
“We’re genuinely interested in what people have to say,”
Aminmansour said. “No one has any agenda in terms of wanting to
do something and forcing it to happen. I think in the end, we’ll
do what we feel is best for the campus. That’s the only goal.
If that means changing the policies, then we’ll recommend that.
If not, then we won’t.”
The changes that the committee is considering would apply only to the
fall semester and would make it analogous to the spring semester. If
the senate does approve changing the policies and therefore the calendar,
changes would not go into effect until at least fall 2006, as the calendar
for fall 2005 is already in place.
The task group’s suggested changes include starting classes for
the fall semester on a Monday rather than a Wednesday. Under the current
policy, although the first day that classes meet is a Wednesday, Monday
classes are convened on that day to ensure that Monday classes meet
a minimum of 14 sessions. Changing the start of the semester to Monday
would eliminate the “treat-Wednesday-as-Monday” confusion.
Some faculty members and students have recommended decreasing the number
of vacation days during Thanksgiving week and giving students a couple
of days off earlier in the semester. Under current policies, classes
do not meet during the week of Thanksgiving; however, some students
have suggested that they would benefit more from a short break at mid-semester.
“Thanksgiving typically occurs either one or two weeks prior to
the end of the semester,” Aminmansour said. “I’m not
sure how helpful that weeklong break right before the end of the semester
is for them. There’s a long stretch of time between Labor Day
weekend and the Thanksgiving break, so we thought it would be beneficial
for students to have a long weekend some time in October to break the
Therefore, the task group has recommended that classes meet on the Monday
and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, and those two vacation days be moved
to the seventh or eighth week of the semester in October.
Bob Damrau, coordinator of the Office of the Senate, said, “At
the moment, we are the only Big Ten school that gives students the whole
week off at Thanksgiving. And we discovered that some students think
that the campus is closed during that week,” when in fact, campus
units are open and faculty and staff members available to them.
While some people have suggested that fall classes simply be started
a week earlier, that is not a feasible solution, Aminmansour said.
“Prior to the start of the fall semester, there’s a weeklong
orientation for teaching assistants, and there are numerous activities
that would be affected. And we can’t expect faculty, staff and
TAs to begin working before their contracts begin,” Aminmansour
said. “There are a lot of issues that we need to take into consideration.
It’s not just a matter of people wanting a break here or there.”
The task group’s recommendations also include scheduling the final
day of classes on a Wednesday, followed by Reading Day on Thursday,
with final exams beginning on Friday. Unlike the current schedule, final
exams would not be held on Saturdays, which would give students an extra
day to study.
Removing Saturday from the final-exam schedule also would reduce the
number of final exam periods from 19 to 18, which concurs with the spring
semester’s calendar. Accordingly, removing the Monday and Tuesday
vacation days from the Thanksgiving break and rescheduling them for
the middle of October would reduce the number of five-day instructional
weeks from 13 to 12, although the number of instructional days would
remain the same.
The week of Thanksgiving is “ground zero” for developing
the academic calendar, Aminmansour said, and with the current calendar,
the fall semester begins 13 weeks prior to Thanksgiving and final exams
are scheduled to end on Saturday three weeks after Thanksgiving week.
If the suggested calendar changes might result in fall classes beginning
before Aug. 22, under the new policy, classes would begin the Monday
12 weeks prior to Thanksgiving week and final examinations would end
on the Friday four weeks after Thanksgiving week. This change also would
eliminate any potential pay and contract conflicts for personnel who
are paid monthly on the 16th.