Penn State Intercom......March 14, 2002

Senate recommends
changes in academic calendar

By Allison Kessler
Public Information

The University calendar will undergo a metamorphosis as early as fall 2003 if President Graham B. Spanier approves the proposal passed by the University Faculty Senate late last month.

The proposed calendar would combine the existing fall break and Thanksgiving break into one full week of vacation at Thanksgiving time. Also, fall and spring semesters each would consist of 72 instructional days and a period of four "final assessment days" would conclude each semester. These recommendations have been sent to the president after more than a year of study and debate.

In a rare standing vote, 105 senators voted for the final calendar recommendations and 62 senators opposed the measure, which was presented to the Senate by the Joint Committee to Review the University Calendar.

"This is a complex issue where there are widely differing opinions. The Senate, in a clear, orderly and civil manner, offered its advice to the president. It's a compromise position," said Faculty Senate Chair John S. Nichols.

Previous Senate discussion confirms the diversity of opinion regarding the semester calendar modification. The substantial support for maintaining the status quo contradicted urgent calls to remedy the problems with the current calendar. At the risk of alienating either position, the calendar committee proposed a compromise, according to the committee.

The Senate intends for the calendar changes to provide for a more flexible schedule. The semesters would begin somewhat later, thus allowing students to finish summerlong internships.

Additionally, the consolidation of fall break and Thanksgiving recess would decrease the number of interruptions of scheduled classes during the fall semester, which has been creating some pedagogical and attendance problems for both instructors and students.

"There is widespread agreement within the faculty and administration that the schedule, particularly the fall calendar, is broken," Nichols said. "There is an agreement that it is in need of repair."

In other business, the Committee on Faculty Affairs presented a promotion and tenure summary for 2000-2001 and the Committee on Student Life presented informational reports on interim expulsion and student perceptions of safety.