Beginning in fall 2012, students in Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will have a five-day fall break and shorter reading and finals periods, University President Richard Levin announced in an e-mail to faculty Monday afternoon.
In addition to the break, the new calendar equalizes the fall and spring semesters so both have 64 class days. It also shortens both reading and finals periods by two days each while adding two to five days to winter break. Three faculty members interviewed expressed support for the new schedule, but some students said they are unhappy about the shortened reading week.
“The fall term sometimes feels like a race to Thanksgiving,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said. “Students will be able to rest, catch up on work, throw themselves into extracurriculars or maybe just watch the foliage and carve pumpkins.”
John Meeske, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources and one of the main drafters of the new calendar, said students, residential college masters and mental health professionals have long wanted a break in the middle of the fall semester to bolster students’ mental health.
Meeske said students do not use all of reading week to study for exams. Over the years, he added, fewer courses have culminated with final exams, making it possible to shorten finals week.
Fourteen of 16 students interviewed said they are excited to have a fall break, but nine said they will miss the extra days during reading week.
Lauren Smith ’11 said the longer reading week is beneficial to students, who use some of the time to relax. Still, most students said the addition of a fall break and the lengthening of winter break compensates for the loss of extra study time.
Jordano Sanchez ’13 said the new fall break would allow him to go home to New York, and will make fall semester easier.
“I think this will greatly reduce how burnt-out people feel by the end of the semester,” he said.
However, Richard Kahn ’13, who lives in Chicago, said that the break is not long enough to allow students who live far from New Haven adequate time to visit home.
Miller said she hopes seniors in particular will take advantage of the five-day break to travel and conduct research for senior projects.
All three professors interviewed said they are pleased with the equal allotment of class days to the fall and spring semesters in the new calendar.
English and linguistics professor Roberta Frank said the proposal “makes good sense” and allows professors to teach the same course in either semester without altering the syllabus.
While Meeske said the new calendar is an improvement over the old one, it introduces some new logistical challenges. To ensure that there is adequate time in the schedule for winter break and make room for fall break, fall semester classes will always start the Wednesday before Labor Day. Monday classes will meet on the first Friday of the semester, and students will not have class on the Monday holiday. Miller said that Friday seminars will meet at least once before schedules are due.
But Miller said starting the fall semester early has other benefits: Freshmen will attend orientation events on Labor Day, helping Yale follow through on a recommendation to extend freshman orientation made by the 2003 Committee on Yale College Education.
Meeske said that while Yale’s professional schools were consulted about the changes, they are still free to decide whether or not they want to change their calendars. Currently, many of the professional schools operate on different calendars from Yale College’s.
Yale College’s current calendar was introduced in the early 1970s, Meeske told the News in October.