Proposed Changes to the Academic Calendar

(The most recent additions are in red below.)
Both students and faculty have proposed several changes to academic calendar policies during the period from January 2005 to present. Among the desired (by some) changes are When considering these proposed changes, it is perhaps useful to keep in mind that some of the most recent changes to academic calendar policy were due to (Another recent change was extending the Thanksgiving Break to also include Wednesday. This change was strongly supported by both faculty and students, and perhaps has little to do with the changes currently under consideration.)

The Academic Policies Committee of the Faculty Senate originally identified three possible changes that seemed to be the most promising ways to satisfy at least some of the current desires. Originally, we did not state that we strongly recommend these changes, but rather we just thought that if any changes were going to be made, the ones we proposed may be the best ones to seriously consider. Then we sent information about the proposed changes to a wide variety of people within the university and requested feedback. Having gotten a lot of feedback about the proposed changes, we decided to not recommend one of them. While we generally like the other two proposals, it seems like it's impossible for us to be highly confident that they are either good or bad. It was finally decided that it didn't make sense for us to withdraw the proposals; nor did it make sense for us to srongly recommend the proposals with no hesitation. So, because we do see some merit in the two proposals pertaining to the starting dates of the fall and spring semesters, we'll go ahead and present them as motions, and hope that the collective wisdom of the Faculty Senate will help it make the best decisions. If you read this prior to the day we vote (the plan is to vote at the April 5 meeting of the Faculty Senate), and want to make recommendations or comments, I urge members of the faculty to give recommendations to the faculty senators of their academic units, and others can direct feedback to Cliff Sutton (

Note: Due to problems associated with the proposal pertaining to the Labor Day and Columbus Day breaks, it is perhaps best that the proposal pertaining to these breaks presented earlier no longer considered as a possibility for the next three year calendar. Explanation will be provided below.

1st possible change: (Note: This is the proposal no longer being considered at present. (Explanation is provided below.))
Have classes on Labor Day and extend the Columbus Day Break to include Tuesday.
discussion: The initial feedback from Faculty Senate members (and other faculty members as well) on this proposal indicated that a good proportion of the Senate liked it, and a good proportion of the Senate very much disliked it. Some who really like it have considerable experience teaching Monday classes that meet one day a week, and they realize that the current schedule is horrible for the students in such classes --- not only do they not get a break in October or November, but they also have to attend class the Tuesday after Columbus Day, which may interfere with other scheduled activities. Faculty members who dislike the proposal worried about student attendence, claimed that it would be wrong to have classes on Labor Day, or noted that doing so may be rather inconvenient for faculty and students having families.

In addition to seeking feedback from faculty, feedback was also sought from others. It was determined that the Staff Senate strongly opposed this proposal. A major concern they have is that child care centers will be closed on Labor Day, and some staff members routinely make use of day care for their children. Also, many staff workers greatly dislike the idea of losing the Labor Day holiday, since it occurs the day before public schools generally begin classes, and is a good day to enjoy familiy activities.

An investigation was done to determine how state universities having classes on Labor Day handle their holiday schedules. It was learned that at Virginia Tech, Labor Day is a day on which staff work, but supervisors are lenient with granting leave, and those who work earn comp time so that another day may be taken off at a later time in place of the lost Labor Day holiday. While this policy seems to work out fine at Virginia Tech, GMU staff seem to strongly oppose putting such a policy into place here. The leaders of the Staff Senate believe that many will strongly resent having to work on Labor Day (noting that not all of the staff can be given the day off), and it was pointed out that such a policy could cause quite a hardship for single parents who have to work. (Note: The Virginia Tech policy seems to be the most staff-friendly policy that would allow for Labor Day classes.)

Since prior to learning of strong staff opposition, the faculty seemed about evenly split (or perhaps a slight majority were already opposed to the proposal), and it is clear that many in the Faculty Senate are sympathetic to the staff complaints, it is perhaps best to not give this proposal any further consideration as we continue to investigate possible changes to the academic calendar for the next three year calendar.

While making no changes concerning the Labor Day and Columbus Day breaks leaves us with a break early in the semester when a break doesn't seem needed, and leaves us with a particularly ugly situation for Monday evening students, there doesn't seem to be a good alternative to this unless it is determined that the faculty really wants to support the original proposal to replace the Labor Day break with an additional day of break on the Tuesday after Columbus Day and it can be determined exactly which portion of the staff will have to work on Labor Day (e.g., what offices have to be open, and what services need to be provided, in order to have classes), and a plan can be developed that will make those staff workers reasonably happy. (Note: It won't work to just eliminate the Columbus Day holiday and take the entire week off at Thanksgiving, because that would result in Monday classes not meeting for two weeks, and to try to add an additional Monday class day right before exams works against the Student Senate's desire to have a nice reading days period prior to final exams.)

2nd possible change:
Begin fall semester classes the Thursday 11 days before Labor Day, and have the final exam period start on the Monday morning following the end of classes (on Wednesday), except that when Labor Day occurs on the 6th or 7th of September, the exam period would start the Saturday following the end of classes.
3rd possible change:
For spring semesters in years for which MLK Day comes relatively early, so that by current policy classes would begin the Monday following MLK Day, begin spring semester classes the Thursday following MLK Day, and have the final exam period start the Monday morning following the end of classes (on Wednesday). (For spring semesters in years for which MLK Day comes relatively late, so that by current policy classes would begin the Tuesday following MLK Day, continue with the current policy of starting classes on a Tuesday following MLK Day, ending classes on a Monday, and having final exams start the following Wednesday morning (allowing for only one reading day).)
Feb. 7 Update

On Feb. 2 the Student Sentate voted on a resolution that, while worded differently, pertains to the three proposed changes above. The students approved of the proposed change involving Labor Day by a vote of 22 - 4, and they approved of the two proposed changes involving the starting dates of the semesters by votes of 24 - 2. So the Student Senate not only favors all three proposed changes, but they do so by a strong majority.