Calendar may change, add break

A proposal for a new Yale College calendar, which would institute a five-day fall break and shorter reading and finals weeks, has reached University President Richard Levin’s desk, and University officers are discussing implementing it in the 2012-’13 academic year.

John Meeske, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources, said the three main objectives of the new calendar are to add a fall break, balance the semesters so both have 64 class days (currently there are 63 in the fall and 65 in the spring), and allow more time for freshman orientation. Levin said he sees no serious drawbacks to the proposed calendar, but the officers are waiting to make a final decision until they hear feedback from Yale’s graduate and professional schools, since a change in the College calendar might lead them to change theirs, he said.

“For many years, there has been student interest in having a break in the middle of the fall semester,” University President Richard Levin said. “Also, it has long seemed odd to hold classes on Labor Day.”

Meeske, who was one of three administrators tasked by the Course of Study Committee with rethinking the calendar, said the committee has consulted many people about their decisions. In particular, he mentioned that deans, masters and mental health experts suggested a fall break would be beneficial to students. The Yale College calendar has remained essentially the same since the early 1970s, and Meeske said changing the schedule is complex because it affects the professional schools and staff as well as undergraduates.

Yale currently rotates between several different calendars, which are adjusted based on when Labor Day falls. Classes start before Labor Day three years out of seven. Meeske said the new calendar would introduce more regularity to the system, since classes would always start the Wednesday before Labor Day, and Commencement would always fall before Memorial Day. The new calendar would also eliminate the Friday/Monday switch incurred by Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in the spring, though classes will still not meet on that holiday.

The change would also do away with classes on Labor Day, and administrators said they would use the three-day weekend gained to design a second part of freshman orientation. This would address a suggestion of the 2003 Committee on Yale College Education report, which advised that freshman orientation be extended. In addition, winter break would be four or five days longer than it is now, and the reading and finals weeks would each be two days shorter.

In the early 1970s, when the current calendar introduced shopping period and moved finals before winter break, students had more final exams, Meeske said. He added that now reading week is unnecessarily long, and most students do not use all of the time to study.

Meeske said the calendar was presented to the faculty in early October, and their biggest concern was that for the first two weeks of fall semester, Monday classes would not meet. He said the committee is considering ways to deal with this problem. The other main concern was that the committee did not do anything to change shopping period, which is unpopular among some faculty members.

Eight out of 10 undergraduates interviewed said they would support the implementation of the new calendar.

Emily Langowitz ’12 said the fall and spring semester have very different characters because of the lack of a break for most of the fall.

“Twelve weeks in a row is exhausting, and to have a break in there would be wonderful,” she said.

In a statement to the News, the Yale College Council said it supported the new calendar, and despite the possible downsides of a shorter reading week, the calender would ultimately benefit students because a fall break would reduce the stress of midterms.

Under the current calendar, Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, would begin on the evening of the first day of classes in 2013, which Meeske said is an added reason to adopt the new calendar in the near future.

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