The Yale College Council released its second Academic Calendar Report on Sunday, which indicated that student opinions on recent changes in the academic calendar — including the addition of an October recess and the shortening of reading weeks and examination periods — have remained largely unchanged since the previous report was issued in January.
Like the January report, the new report recommends that the administration shorten winter break in order to restore the length of the end-of-term reading and exam periods. This recommendation was based on the results of a survey conducted in early September that received 888 responses. Sixty-eight percent of the students said that last year’s changes to the academic calendar negatively influenced their academic performance, and 81 percent said that the changes had adverse effects on their health and anxiety levels. Sixty-four percent of the students surveyed said they would prefer to have a couple of days removed from winter break instead of the shortened reading and exam periods. Still, one change to the academic calendar proved popular: 80 percent of students said they want to keep October break. These results are almost entirely consistent with the findings from January’s surveys.
YCC President Danny Avraham ’15 said administrators requested that the YCC compile this second report before they would consider making any changes to the academic calendar in future years.
“[The administrators] were not willing to make any changes to the calendar until a full academic year was experienced,” Avraham said, adding that the new data will reinforce the arguments from last semester’s report.
Still, Avraham said that the YCC, in conjunction with the Dean’s Office, proposed slight adjustments to the 2013–’14 academic calendar last spring that University President Peter Salovey ultimately rejected. Avraham declined to comment further.
David Lawrence ’15, YCC academic chair and author of the report, said that the two academic calendar reports differ in subtle ways, adding that the more recent version was necessary to fully understand student complaints. This time around, the Office of Institutional Research reviewed the survey questions beforehand, making the results of the report stronger, Lawrence said.
“The actual questions we asked in this survey were much more specific and nuanced and clear,” Lawrence said. “They allowed us to get a much better analysis.”
For example, this year’s survey asked separately about how the calendar changes affected academic performance and health — an improvement upon the January report, which asked about the manageability of the new exam period structure and its influence on students’ general abilities, Lawrence said.
The new report also shows that more than 60 percent of sophomores, juniors and seniors would prefer to shorten winter break in order to keep fall break — an important step in the analysis of the collective student opinion, Lawrence said. Avraham added that winter break was extended when the schedule was changed to equalize the number of days in the fall and spring terms and the proposed shortening of winter break would only return it to its original length.
Lawrence added that the report shows students felt similarly across all fields of study.
John Meeske, associate dean of student organizations and physical resources, said that he was not surprised by the results of the second report.
“I was convinced after the fall term that we had some problems with the shorter reading and exam periods,” he said. “We were already thinking of ways to possibly deal with those problems.”
The bigger issue, Meeske said, is ensuring that the calendar is consistent. Depending on the year, it may be difficult to shorten winter break, he said. For instance, on years in which Labor Day falls on Sept. 7, Meeske said the term might already end as late as Dec. 23, meaning that lengthening reading and exam periods could infringe on Christmas celebrations.
Still, Meeske said that there are many different ways to address the problem, but they might involve sacrifices. In the situation that Meeske proposed, the solution may involve the shortening of October break to only one day, he said. Alternatively, as the report recommends, both semesters could start earlier. Meeske said he will continue working alongside Avraham and Lawrence to look for solutions for the years to come.
“Calendar business is a lot more difficult than it seems,” he said.
Students interviewed said they enjoyed having fall break but were divided on whether they were willing to give up several days of winter break.
Hannah Alpert ’15 said that she thinks the calendar is fine the way it is. Lengthening the reading and exam periods would not change much, since students always want more time to prepare, she said.
Ayezan Malik ’14 said he would prefer not to shorten winter break because that is when he has the opportunity to go home. Although he enjoys having fall break, he said that he would rather give it up to restore the reading and exam periods than have days removed from winter break.
But Maddie Klugman ’15 said she supported the shortening of winter break because she thinks that three weeks is too long to be “doing nothing.”
Sunday’s report also recommended that fall break be held in the third week of October rather than the fourth week, and that the number of examinations scheduled for 7 p.m. be decreased or eliminated.