University President Graham B. Spanier has approved a Faculty Senate recommendation to include two class-free days in Penn State's academic calendar in mid-October, starting in 1999.
The Senate endorsed the proposal at its Oct. 27 meeting. According to the University administration's implementation plan, the two-day break will be held on Monday and Tuesday in the eighth week of the fall semester. The break will begin in 1999 on Oct. 11-12. In 2000, it will fall on Oct. 9-10; in 2001, on Oct. 8-9; in 2002, on Oct. 14-15; and in 2003, on Oct. 13-14.
The proposal is intended to help reduce the stress levels of Penn State students, especially first-year students, who over the years have been increasingly vocal about the pressures of classes, study and often work (Intercom, Oct. 22). National data also record sharply increased reports of stress by students since the late 1960s.
Spanier said the change will benefit students and faculty and improve learning and teaching at Penn State. Until now, Spanier said, "Penn State has had one of the longest academic calendars in higher education -- something we have taken pride in. Previously, our fall semester made for an unusually long stretch before Thanksgiving -- about three full months -- and many students and faculty found that this actually hampered learning and teaching."
The inclusion of two class-free days on the calendar will not mean two days off for Penn State faculty and staff. During the break, classes will not be held, but faculty and staff will be on the job as usual.
The calendar change will not have a major impact on the number of hours students spend in class. As part of the calendar change, the University will start its academic calendar a day earlier than it currently does. Even with the change, Penn State will still be tied for the No. 1 spot among Big Ten universities in the number of class hours taught each semester.
Other calendar changes include:
In other action at its Oct. 27 meeting, the Senate accepted a report recommending that all faculty -- starting on July 1, 1999 -- periodically receive extended performance reviews. Current policy, HR-40, already calls for annual reviews, but the revised guidelines will allow a look farther back and farther ahead as part of the annual reviews.
The Senate also heard informational reports on implementation of the University's new general education program (Intercom, June 18) and the 1998-99 budget and budget planning for 1999-2000.
The Senate's next meeting will be held on Dec. 8, at 1:30 p.m., in Room 112 Kern Building on the University Park campus.
For more information on the calendar changes, point your Web browser to http://www.psu.edu/registrar and choose "Calendars."
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