Reading period extended

Next year students will have one more day to finish their final papers.

In a Monday afternoon email, Yale College Dean Mary Miller notified students that the current three-day reading period would be extended to four days for both semesters of the 2014–’15 academic year. Miller cited input from students, faculty members, masters and deans as an impetus for the change. Until the introduction of a three-day fall recess during the 2012–’13 academic year, the University had offered a weeklong reading period each semester.

While students and faculty members expressed enthusiasm about the extension of reading period, members of the Yale College Council chalked it up to a minor victory.

An extended reading period was a central recommendation of the two academic calendar reports released by the YCC in November and January. Based off student surveys, these reports advised that the administration give students more time to finish papers and prepare for exams to reduce stress levels.

Still, members said they had requested a two-day extension rather than a one-day extension.

David Lawrence ’15 — who wrote the YCC’s academic calendar report and heads the YCC’s academics subcommittee — said while a one-day extension is a step in the right direction, students deserve a full reading week.

“We’re glad it increased, and in the future, we’ll continue to advocate [for an additional extension to reading period,]” Lawrence said. He added that he was appreciative that the administration was receptive to the YCC’s proposals.

According to the most recent YCC report, which reflected recommendations based on a survey of 888 students, 68 percent of survey respondents claimed the shortened reading period had negatively affected their academic performance. Eighty-one percent of respondents said the shortened reading period had adverse effects on their health and anxiety levels.

Associate Dean for Student Organizations and Physical Resources John Meeske said the extended reading period comes at some cost to the rest of next year’s academic calendar. In the spring term, the extra day of reading period will cut into the time between exams and Commencement, putting pressure on professors to speed up the grading of final exams and papers, he said. In the fall term, the extra day will come from winter break.

Still, both professors interviewed expressed appreciation that the reading period had been extended.

English professor Wai Chee Dimock GRD ’82 said the added day will allow students to be more reflective and draw stronger connections between the readings they have covered over the course of the semester rather than hastily rush through the material. Another English professor, Leslie Brisman, said he was relieved by the news that the University was willing to break from tradition to reform the calendar.

All seven students expressed gratitude for the extended reading period, echoing the YCC’s findings that a longer reading period would help tame end-of-semester student anxiety.

Mitch Barrows ’16 called the change “a welcome farewell gift” from Miller, who will step down from the deanship at the end of the current academic year.

Marc Cugnon ’17 said an extended reading period would help students better prepare for final exams.

In contrast to YCC’s call for a two-day extension, Esther Woo ’16 said she appreciated that the reading period was extended by only a day.

“I think one day is a helpful extension because it’s not so big of an extension as to foster procrastination and prolonged stress, but it’s enough to alleviate panic,” Woo said.

Wesley Yin contributed reporting. 

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