February 9, 2014

Professors, Students Split Over Revisions to Academic Calendar

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Cornell community members are split over recent revisions to Cornell’s academic calendar, many of which are going into effect for the first time this year. Changes include the new two-day-long Winter Break on Feb. 16 and 17, a delayed Spring Break, and a shortened study week.

The calendar revisions, which were proposed by the University Calendar Committee and ratified last May by the Faculty Senate, split the semester into thirds and reduced the number of instructional days from 70 to 69, according to a University press release.

The changes were made after nearly two years of committee discussion, and were designed to reduce student stress in the spring semester, Provost Kent Fuchs said in a University statement.

“The committee’s objectives were to re-examine the existing calendar with an eye to proposing changes that would: Address concerns about student stress and mental health related to prolonged periods of instruction without multi-day breaks, enhance educational opportunities and comply with New York State Education Department requirements,” Fuchs said.

Some faculty members, such as Prof. Barbara Correll, english, applauded the University’s decision to prioritize the mental health and well-being of students.

“I like the breaks.” Correll said. “They make an otherwise long semester seem more endurable. If they give the students more relaxation time, I’m all in favor of the changes.”

Other faculty members agreed with the decision to add another break to the spring semester, but questioned its placement so early in the semester.

“Two breaks are a good way to reduce some of the stress on students. The break in April was a great idea because students are often exhausted at that time,” said Prof. Sherene Baugher, archaeology and landscape architecture.

Baugher said the break would be more effective if it occurred when students were on campus for a longer amount of time following Winter Break.

“The February Break doesn’t break up the semester in a logical way because it is too early in the semester. Having the break at the end of February would have been better,” she said.

Some students appreciated the new Winter Break, but felt that the University should have allocated a set number of snow days instead.

“It’s nice to have a break, but I’m not sure why the school added it. Spring semester goes by so fast compared to fall semester. I’d prefer if Cornell gave snow days [when the weather is dangerous],” said Shelby Park ’16.

Other students do not support the calendar changes, particularly the placement of Spring Break in late March because it does not overlap with the spring breaks of many other universities.

“I feel that the University made several mistakes with the revisions to the academic calendar, particularly choosing to schedule a break four weeks into the semester, and pushing spring break back by several weeks so that it doesn’t coincide with breaks at most other schools,” said Anita Mbogoni ’15.

Some recent graduates echoed the sentiments of current Cornell students, expressing mixed feelings about the new schedule changes.

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“I think the February break is a really nice addition and gives students something to look forward to after a stretch that would otherwise be a very long time with no breaks,” said Barbara Taylor Sands ’11. “I think there may be pros and cons to both sides, but I would be willing to guess that most students would prefer to have it overlap with other schools’ Spring Breaks.”