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Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

In a break from long-standing tradition, reading period and finals for the fall semester of the 2020–21 calendar year will be held prior to winter break. According to an email memo sent to the student body on Tuesday, Feb. 4 by Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun, the first day of classes will take place on Sept. 2, and Dec. 22 will mark the final day of exams. 

Although requirements may vary by department, the University-wide deadline for junior independent work will be the first Friday of Wintersession, on Jan. 15, 2021, according to an email statement that Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss sent to The Daily Princetonian. 

The academic calendar change was passed at a faculty meeting in April 2018 and followed intense debate among students and faculty alike. The Calhoun memo noted that “more than 80 percent of students surveyed said that taking finals in January made them feel stressed over winter break.” 

The new calendar will feature an optional “Wintersession,” a two week period at the end of winter break during which University community members will be able to “experiment and explore through refreshingly unexpected, active, and intriguing non-graded learning and growth opportunities,” according to the memo. 

All Residential College Advivers; Outdoor Action, Community Action, and Dialogue and Difference in Action leaders; and athlete leaders will be required to arrive on campus on Aug. 18, 2020, according to Hotchkiss. Other upperclass students will move in on Aug. 29, while first-years will move in on Aug. 22. 

The majority of students interviewed by the ‘Prince’ said they look forward to the calendar change. 

“I like the idea of Intersession, but not as much as I like the idea of the semester just being over sooner,” said Liana Slomka ’23. 

Raphael Njoku ’22 said he is excited by the change and the ability to “enjoy a proper winter break” with family. 

“I’ll save time by not having to explain to friends from other schools why I have finals after break,” said Ezra Osofsky ’23. The University is the last of the Ivy League institutions to transition to the new calendar system. 

Razvan-Octavian Radu ’21, a mathematics concentrator, said the past calendar was inconvenient for students like him who prefer to travel home over breaks. 

“I had to go [home] during winter break and then come back for a week during exams and then leave again, which was kind of annoying,” he explained, citing the financial burden of doubling the number of his flights. 

Garcia Lopez-Paul ’23 was also glad for the change. 

“I forgot a lot over the break, and it was just a dark cloud over my break,” he said. 

Thomas Pries ’23 agreed, saying the new system would make studying for finals significantly easier. 

Another first-year, Brian Zhen ’23, expressed concern about the new system. 

“I don’t know if final projects will be more stressful,” he said, referencing the fact that without winter break, students will have less time to prepare Dean’s Date work. 

Micah Newberger ’22, who said he preferred the past fall term schedule to the spring term schedule, mentioned a similar concern.

“Thanksgiving will become the break for a big push,” he said. 

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