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NEWS: Faculty vote to approve changes to Thanksgiving break, fall semester

By HANNAH SCHOEN Contributor

Thanksgiving break will begin on the day before Thanksgiving starting this fall, after a unanimous vote by the faculty at a University faculty meeting on Monday. As a result, the fall 2013 semester will now begin on the second Wednesday of September, rather than the second Thursday of September.


The changes to the calendar come after University President Shirley Tilghman asked Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin and Dean of the College Valerie Smith to engage students in conversation about the academic calendar last semester. According to a March 3 memo sent by Dobkin and Smith to the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy, Tilghman proposed to gauge student interest in canceling class on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break through student focus groups after 83 percent of respondents to the USG’s Academic Life Total Assessment survey for the 2011-12 academic year indicated that they supported the idea.

In the memo, Dobkin and Smith said they reviewed the findings of the 14 focus groups, which conducted their reviews in November and December. They concluded that students strongly supported adding a Wednesday to Thanksgiving break and making up the lost day by starting the fall 2013 semester one day earlier.

At the meeting, which lasted about 10 minutes, Tilghman invited Dobkin to explain the proposed changes to the calendar briefly.

In response to a faculty member’s question about how the proposed changes could affect freshmen, Smith said that the University would make the necessary adjustments to the preorientation and orientation schedules.

The changes to the academic calendar will allow students to attend classes that meet on Wednesday during the first week of the fall semester and will afford an extra day for Thanksgiving travel.

According to the USG’s Thanksgiving Focus Groups Report, students participating in the focus groups unanimously supported changing the first day of class and having Thanksgiving break begin on the Wednesday before. The report also found that students believe the calendar changes would result in a “more uniform policy” on class meetings. Previously, some faculty have taught on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, while others have canceled or rescheduled class.


Though the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy originally considered eliminating fall break in favor of a week-long Thanksgiving break, the USG report stated that the focus groups under its purview found students value fall break, both as a way to travel and engage in extracurricular activities as well as to relax and catch up on work after the stress of midterms.

The faculty also made nominations of members to various committees, who will be elected through electronic ballot to serve beginning in the fall.

Four professors were nominated to the Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal, which investigates faculty members accused of violating University policy. The nominees are civil and environmental engineering professor Catherine Peters, economics professor Harvey Rosen, assistant physics professor Thomas Gregor and assistant English professor Russell Leo.

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