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Ad Hoc Committee on Calendar Reform proposes fall exams before winter break

In addition to recent attempts to reform the Honor Code, the University is currently considering a reform of the academic calendar.

In October 2016, the Task Force on General Education made six recommendations in regard to undergraduate studies, one of which suggested that fall exams be moved to before winter break by beginning the fall semester earlier. At the time of the Task Force recommendations, 75 percent of students who participated in an Undergraduate Student Government survey expressed support for this change.


The Ad Hoc Committee on Calendar Reform, charged in spring 2017 and composed of faculty members, two undergraduate students, and one graduate student, released a final survey on Jan. 30 to gather student opinions on the proposed new calendar. This calendar features a fall semester that would begin as early as Sept. 1 and end between Dec. 19 and 23, resulting in shortened reading periods and finals periods. By comparison, the spring semester would remain unchanged, save beginning and ending a week earlier.

In conjunction with reworking the fall exam schedule, the Ad Hoc Committee also proposed a two-week Wintersession with “optional, non-credit-bearing activities.”

“The challenge has been how to accomplish this without sacrificing the unique and positive features in our current calendar, like the reading period and midterm break,” wrote computer science professor Aarti Gupta, the Ad Hoc Committee Chair, in an email to The Daily Princetonian. 

“In addition to better alignment with study abroad and summer programs/internships, we hope that the proposed calendar will lead to new intellectually enriching opportunities for students on campus and abroad during January,“ he wrote. 

Like the majority of student responses to the USG survey conducted in October 2016, most students interviewed by the ‘Prince’ were in favor of the new calendar. 

“I personally support moving final exams before winter break because I feel that the majority of schools in this country have exams before winter break,” said Grace Chen ’21. “Having final exams for basically an entire month in January just seems unnecessary, and I feel that I could be using that time for something else that’s more productive.”


Russell Kim ’20 echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that he “would like to be able to relax during winter break.”

In a later interview, Chen expressed concern that the late time frame for exams would be inconvenient for students going home for winter break, “especially international students.” According to the Calendar Reform FAQs, the fall semester would end as late as Dec. 23 in “one year out of seven.”

In response to these concerns, which were also voiced by three other students interviewed, Connor Pfeiffer ’18, an undergraduate member of the Ad Hoc Committee, commented that the late end to the semester would be necessary to accomplish the calendar reform’s main goals.

“Student surveys have shown strong support for moving finals before winter break, and I know that a full week for fall break is also popular with students,” wrote Pfeiffer in an email. “While ending between Dec. 19 and 23, depending on the year, is not ideal, I believe that the benefits, keeping a full week of break after midterms and finally having a real winter break free from academic work, outweigh the costs.”

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While no students interviewed expressed strong opposition towards the calendar reform, some conveyed little issue with the current academic calendar structure.

“I don’t really have a strong opinion, but I don’t have a problem with the way it is right now,” said David Liu ’21. “It feels smooth and for me, it’s less stress, even though other people might disagree.”

The Ad Hoc Committee on Calendar Reform hopes to submit a definitive proposal to the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy by March 2018. According to the Ad Hoc Committee, if the calendar reform is approved, the University would “continue to operate on the current calendar for two academic years before putting the changes into effect.”