How Temple is deciding the Fall 2024 academic calendar

The university will use the students’ opinions and other schools’ data to make a decision on Election Day classes.

Temple is seeking opinions from both students and faculty, in addition to examining the effect on classes before announcing any changes during the spring semester. | FILE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Nov. 28, Provost Gregory Mandel shared a survey detailing options to potentially adjust the Fall 2024 semester schedule, including the addition of a break on Election Day.

The poll, which was available on TUPortal until Dec. 12, gave students the choice of keeping the current schedule or adding additional days off. The first option would maintain the current schedule. The second option would schedule a three-day wellness break in mid-October, with Fall break starting the day before Thanksgiving. The third option would give students a two-day wellness break and off Election Day. With this option, Fall break would also start the day before Thanksgiving.

In devising the Fall 2024 schedule, Temple is seeking opinions from both students and faculty, in addition to examining the effect on classes before announcing any changes during the spring semester.  

“It’s really connecting all the efforts and all the conversations around the academic calendar,” said Jodi Levine-Laufgraben, vice provost for academic affairs, assessment and institutional research. “Several years ago when we first implemented the full fall break, a few years in we did a poll to see how it was working, and if that’s what people still preferred. So it seemed time to do that again, to ask about fall break preferences.”

The survey comes more than a year after Jared Goldberg, a 2022 political science alumnus, petitioned Temple in October 2022 to cancel class on Election Day with the hope of increasing voting accessibility for students. The petition was signed by more than 5,000 people, including both students and faculty.

Last academic year, Mandel and the newly-created Election Day Working Group looked into the possibility of changing the university’s schedule. The group discussed the layout of the academic calendar and took students’ opinions into account, Levine-Laufgraben said. 

Temple Student Government and former Associate Dean of Students Chris Carey reached out to the group in April, and the group proposed the benefits of having Election Day off, said TSG President Rohan Khadka.

TSG reached out to Mandel again toward the end of the summer and were notified that the university would be sending out the poll.

“I thought I had the opportunity to share my opinions and for others to share their opinions,” Khadka said. “I think we did get to the stage that we were in favor of having Election Day off. We met with the provost two or three weeks ago with President [Richard] Englert, we notified them TSG is in favor of option three.”

Temple typically formats its schedule in advance, publishing both its current academic calendar and the academic calendar for the following year, and there are university rules in place for what is possible, Levine-Laufgraben said.

The start of the semester is always set on the fourth Monday of August, with commencement typically being held on the Thursday before Mother’s Day. The second semester of the year is kept uniform, beginning the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Spring Break falls directly in the middle of the semester.

Temple has less flexibility in the Fall semester schedule, having to allocate a set amount of days for the academic year while taking Thanksgiving into consideration, Levine-Laufgraben said. 

“We look at the weeks and the number of weeks we need but we also need to look at the impact of class meetings on a particular day,” Levine-Laufgraben said. “For example, some classes may only meet once a week, like a Tuesday night class, so we also have to look at whether we are giving those classes enough Tuesday meetings.”

The university also looks at how other Northeast universities accredited by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education operate. Most of those colleges hold a one-week break during the week of Thanksgiving.

Temple collected student opinions to inform the poll choices, with the addition of Wellness Days and canceled classes on Election Day receiving the most support, Levine-Laufgraben said.

Despite Temple’s efforts to keep students in mind when it comes to scheduling, some feel there should be more options available and a more extensive process from the university. 

“I do think they probably try and center students, but I don’t know if those are really representative of the student body,” said Sylvia Benjamin, a sophomore health professions major.  “I think they need more options to find more opinions.”

One potential issue is the amount of out-of-state and international students that will be affected by the changes to the schedule. Benjamin, who lives in San Francisco, believes the options that shorten the break eliminate the ability for many students to travel long distances during break, she said.

More than 40 percent of students in the Class of 2027 come from out-of-state, which represents a record number of out-of-state students to attend Temple, according to the university.

“I did go home for Thanksgiving break last year but the reason I didn’t this year is honestly just because it’s really expensive,” Benjamin said. “Having one week off allows people to at least do something. If it’s just a couple of days, like three days then definitely anybody who’s out of state is not gonna be able to go anywhere, that limits our options.”

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