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March 7, 2017

Academic Calendar Changes Move Forward, Committee Seeks Student Feedback

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“Everything is on the table” in Cornell’s 2018-19 academic calendar change, according to Dean of Faculty Charles Van Loan, one of the co-chairs of the Academic Calendar Committee.

The committee is currently surveying Cornell students, faculty and employees for feedback on potential academic calendars with several different structures for the fall and spring semesters.

The co-chairs of the committee — Van Loan and Rebecca Stoltzfus, vice-provost of undergraduate education — are focused on creating a calendar that is optimal for academic success.

Following a complete restructure of the calendar in 2013, part of the agreement was that the calendar would be reviewed again in five years, according to Van Loan.

Potential changes to the calendar include a longer Thanksgiving break, the elimination of February break, an earlier start to the Spring term and a completely new orientation format.

The survey proposes two different structures for the fall semester and four different structures for the spring semester. At the end of filling out the survey, one of the questions asks the survey taker to rank different nine different combinations of the proposed fall and spring semesters.

The committee will start analyzing survey responses on Friday, March 17, and plans to submit a tentative proposal to the Student Assembly, Faculty Senate and Provost mid-April.

“We are getting lots of opinions, but our clear charge was to focus on the academic issues and then we will work through the implementation that promotes an excellent academic experience for our students at Cornell,” Stoltzfus said.

The committee began research in the fall upon “mandate,” and has done a “broad sweep of data gathering, pulling together external benchmarking [of peer institutions] and lots of internal data,” according to Stoltzfus.

Van Loan has met with student groups, faculty assemblies and other organizations on campus to gauge whether or not an updated Academic Calendar will be beneficial.

The committee hopes to incorporate varying viewpoints in order to get the best possible schedule.

“It is important to recognize that this is a complex set of considerations,” Stoltzfus said. “We are trying to optimize across many differing viewpoints and stakeholder groups.”

At this point, the committee has received over 2,000 responses to their recent survey. Students have varying opinions on the potential changes to the Academic Calendar.

Smita Nalluri ’19 hopes for a longer Thanksgiving break, saying that for students who live far from the University, “travelling home for just three days is really difficult.”

Nalluri also favors an earlier spring semester.

“The proposal to start the spring semester a week earlier and end a week earlier is smart because I think we have an excessively long winter break now and getting out earlier in the spring would be nice,” Nalluri said.

Julia Gleason ’20 favors a longer January break, where students can take time to “decompress, celebrate the holidays with family and friends, and spend time at home between semesters.”

Despite differing opinions, students valued the opportunity to provide input in the survey format for a revised academic calendar.

“I liked the survey overall as there were a lot of different options and the differences between options were clearly highlighted,” Nalluri said. “I also appreciated being able to give reasoning behind choosing a certain response.”