The new calendar released for the 2014-15 school year features several changes to the annual schedule, including a week-long fall break covering the Thanksgiving holiday as well as an earlier start and end to the spring semester.
Fall break will include the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the usual closing of the university for Thanksgiving. While no classes will be held during fall break, the university will still be open.
Beginning in 2015, the start of the spring semester will be moved ahead to the first Monday following the second Saturday in January. No classes will be held on Martin Luther King Day, though the university will be open. Spring Break will be moved to the middle of the semester, between the seventh and eighth weeks.
Both spring and fall semester classes will start and end on a Monday. After the end of classes will be the traditional two study days followed by exams, which will conclude on a Wednesday.
University Provost Hai-Lung Dai said that the overall change in scheduling was done to streamline the process of creating a calendar while citing more specific reasons for certain changes.
“We want to start a format that can be repetitive from year to year,” Dai said.
Dai said an earlier end to the spring semester would allow graduating seniors to be more competitive in applying for jobs.
The idea for a fall break was proposed by President Neil Theobald, Dai said, and adopted by the univeristy to simplify the process of class scheduling and provide a respite to students and faculty.
“[Under] the current model, [the Wednesday before Thanksgiving], lots of classes are off anyways in preparation for Thanksgiving and to enable out-of-state students to travel,” Dai said. “[Fall break] would allow students time to study… and for professors to catch a breath.”
By taking a full week from classes, Dai said the university also prevents having to create the “crazy scheduling” of Thursday and Friday classes to be made up on different days and times at the end of the semester.
While students will have the full week off for Thanksgiving, they will lose a week at the end of winter break.
“In the past, winter break has benefited a very small group of students who want to do an internship or study abroad,” Dai said. “But the great majority of those students end up staying at home during that one month period with nothing really to do.”
The Provost’s Office is working with the various colleges to find replacements for programs that are affected by the shorter winter break, Dai said.
Also starting in 2015, the graduation day will be moved to a Friday instead of the traditional Thursday.
Dai said the change of the spring commencement ceremony to a Friday was done to allow out-of-town families to travel more easily to see their relatives graduate. The university will conduct commencement Friday morning followed by college graduation ceremonies Friday and Saturday afternoons in an attempt to accommodate religious holidays and observances.
Last spring, an unsuccessful petition to change the date of graduation because it interfered with the Jewish holiday Shavuot gained more than 350 signatures.
Dai said while the change to Friday graduation was not made to accommodate any one holiday or practice, the university hopes to “avoid any potential conflict because of religious practices.”
University calendars are released two years ahead of the graduation date, and a year before the start of the fall semester.
John Moritz can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU