Calendar changes draw ire among students, faculty

Exams will end on Dec. 22

This upcoming fall will be the first time in seven years that Yale College final examinations do not end on Dec. 18.

University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberley Goff-Crews announced in an email on Friday morning to the student body that the Fall 2015 term will end on Dec. 22 — one day earlier than previously planned. The 2015–16 provisional academic calendar had, as early as Aug. 11, set first semester final examinations to end on Dec. 23 with residences closing the following day. The change will cause reading period to be one day shorter.

“I expect some measure of relief because the latest students can go home is no longer Dec. 24,” Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said. “However, I still expect people to be really frustrated by the decision not to start a week earlier as the [Yale College Council] survey enthusiastically indicated.”

In recent years, the fall semester has begun the Wednesday before Labor Day, with the current academic year having started on the earliest possible date, Aug. 27. Next year, classes will begin on the latest possible date, Sept. 2, an occurrence that happens once every seven years.

According to Goff-Crews, the Calendar Committee — which is composed of students, administrators and faculty — originally planned to keep all aspects of the current academic calendar for next year. These features included the fall recess, week-long Thanksgiving break and six-day reading period.

Although the committee explored many possible alternatives, the vice presidents of the University concluded from the committee’s analysis that the best compromise was to shorten the reading period by one day, thereby preserving both fall recess and Thanksgiving break while ending the semester earlier.

Holloway said he does not believe that the decision will change, maintaining that it would be extremely expensive to begin the school year a week earlier.

While the previous calendar proposed by the University scheduled the last day of finals for Dec. 23, Yale College Council president Michael Herbert ’16 noted that many students would not be able to begin their travel plans until Dec. 24.

“Yes, this decision is preferable,” Herbert said. “This is not a compliment, but a statement of how untenable the previous option was.”

Last semester, the YCC proposed an alternative 2015–16 academic calendar, proposing to move the starting date of the fall semester back one week to Aug. 26 from the University’s planned date of Sept. 2.

Herbert said that the proposed turnaround between the summer and fall semester was the same duration as for the official academic calendar for 2014–15. According to Herbert, the YCC initiative received more student support than any other in YCC history.

In both the 2006–07 and 2007–08 academic years, Yale College also concluded fall semester final examinations on Dec. 22, with undergraduate residences closing the next day. The following school year, Yale College ended fall final examinations on Dec. 20. However, in all three academic years, reading period lasted at least six days. Since then, all first semester final examinations have finished by Dec. 18.

“The thing that I’m most concerned about is possibly not being able to go home for Christmas,” Paige Cunningham ’18 said. “It’s not even that bad for me because I’m from England. In addition to the high airfare, other people have to travel for 26 hours before they can reach home.”

Of 22 students interviewed, all of them agreed that while the change was better than the previous date, it still presented many problems. Anthony Kayruz ’17 said many students may choose to change their schedules next year in order to have earlier finals. He added that for students who had obtained extensions on papers, this meant that they would be working over Christmas.

Faculty members interviewed said the calendar change will cause a litany of issues related to research and grading students’ papers and final exams.

Music history professor Rebekah Ahrendt said the new schedule will pose many of the same problems for faculty as it will for students. She explained that since many professors try to fit in research travel during the break, the potentially high cost may lead some to put off their research until later in January.

History professor Carlos Eire said the calendar change is insensitive to those who find the holiday religiously or culturally significant, explaining that if the last day for finals is Dec. 22 or 23, Christmas will nonetheless be a working day for faculty.

“For professors who celebrate Christmas, grading will now coincide with the sacred holiday,” Eire said. “For those of us with large numbers of exams and papers to grade, it will be impossible to enjoy the holiday. The same goes for our teaching assistants, if we have any.”

Religious Studies professor Dale Martin said that while he understands how students will be inconvenienced by higher travel costs, the calendar change does not affect him personally. On the contrary, Martin said that beginning the semester in August would cut into his research and writing schedule.

Goff-Crews said that although students feel strongly about the schedule, she hopes that they will understand that there were many factors involved in the decision-making process.

“I expect that many students will be pleased that the semester will end earlier than originally planned,” Goff-Crews said. “I understand that the way we achieved the outcome is not what some students had hoped for, but I hope that students will understand that there are always competing interests to take into account.”

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