Two class-free days may be added to Penn State's academic calendar in mid-October, starting in 1999, if the University Faculty Senate endorses a proposal up for consideration at its Oct. 27 meeting and if the University administration adopts the proposal.
The two days are not being called a "fall break," however, because the inclusion of two class-free days on the calendar would not mean two days off for Penn State faculty and staff. If the proposal is adopted, classes will not be held, but faculty and staff will be on the job as usual.
Nor would the calendar change have a major impact on the number of hours students spend in class. If the proposal is adopted, 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.
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. National data also record sharply increased reports of stress by students since the late 1960s.
The proposal is "a way to help a bit in the middle of the semester," said Leonard J. Berkowitz, Senate chair and associate professor of philosophy at Penn State York. Penn State President Graham Spanier also supports a
calendar revision to provide for a short break during October.
"Penn State has one of the longest academic calendars, something our faculty tend to take pride in," Spanier said. "However, our fall semester provides an unusually long stretch before Thanksgiving -- about three full months -- and many students and faculty find that this actually hampers learning and teaching."
Spanier points out that Penn State is one of the few universities that has no such October break.
"I am confident that the proposal to be considered by the Faculty Senate will benefit students and faculty and improve learning and teaching," he said.
If adopted and implemented, the two-day break will be held on the Monday and Tuesday in the eighth week of the fall semester. It would begin in 1999, on Oct. 11-12. In 2000, the break would fall on Oct. 9-10; in 2001, on Oct. 8-9; in 2002, on Oct. 14-15; and in 2003, on Oct. 13-14.
Moving the start of the classes up one day would mean the first day of classes in 1999 will be Aug. 24; in 2000, Aug. 22; in 2001, Aug. 21; in 2002, Aug. 27; and in 2003, Aug. 26. The new calendar would maintain the current schedule of two study days (Saturday and Sunday) before a five-day final exam period. Commencement ceremonies would be held on Saturday at the end of finals week.
The proposal for a two-day break originated with students and was then sent to the Senate's committees on undergraduate education and University planning. The proposal also involved consultation with University administrators, including the Registrar's Office, and research into the calendars of other colleges and universities.
The Senate will meet at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, in Room 112, Kern Graduate Building (see agenda below).
The University Faculty Senate will meet on Oct. 27 at 1:30 pm. in Room 112, Kern Graduate Building on the University Park campus. Some of the items to be discussed include:
* Evaluation of faculty performance (advisory/consultative).
* Fall semester academic calendar changes (advisory/consultative).
* General education-second language report (informational).
* General education-intercultural and international competence requirement (informational).
* Summary of student petition by college, unit or location (informational).
* Budget for 1998-99, process and outcome and budget planning for 1999-2000 (informational).
Members of the University community are invited to attend. Any member of the University community who is not a member of the Senate, may request the privilege of the floor on any item of business already before the Senate.
Such a request must be made to the chair, through the executive secretary of the Senate, at least four calendar days before the meeting at which the individual wishes to speak.
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