Revisions to the academic calendar

Provost Kent Fuchs issued the following statement on revisions to the academic calendar:

I have accepted and approved the recommendations for a revised academic calendar proposed by the university's Calendar Committee and ratified by the Faculty Senate. Changes will go into effect beginning in the spring semester of 2014.

Charged by the president and the provost, the Calendar Committee, composed of faculty, staff and students, was formed during the fall semester of 2010 to explore the possibility, and desirability, of revising the academic calendar. After almost two years of work, community consultation and review, the committee produced a set of recommendations that was approved by the Faculty Senate in May 2012. I applaud the committee's dedicated service.

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.

Fall Semester

The changes to the fall calendar are not extensive: To meet state education requirements for the number of days of instruction, classes will begin on a Tuesday before Labor Day. Breaks in the semester will occur on Labor Day, during a two-day (Monday and Tuesday) fall break on Columbus Day weekend and Thanksgiving break. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be a full day of no instruction instead of a half-day, so the break will be Wednesday through Friday. These changes will bring the number of instructional days from 67.5 to 68. After Thanksgiving break, there will be one full week of classes. The last day of classes will be on a Friday.

Spring Semester

Changes to the spring calendar were designed to help address university concerns about student stress. Classes will begin on a Wednesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A winter break will be added on the Monday and Tuesday of Presidents Week (the third week in February). This allows the weeklong spring break to be scheduled two-thirds of the way into the semester, in late March – breaking the semester into thirds. Currently, spring break occurs after eight weeks of instruction and is followed by six weeks of instruction. Classes will end on a Wednesday in early May. The changes will reduce the number of instructional days from 70 to 69, bringing the length of the semester in closer balance with the fall.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day will become a university holiday starting in 2014.

Study Days and Final Exams

In both semesters, students will have two study days, in addition to the weekend, to prepare for final exams, and there will be an additional study day in the middle of both exam schedules. This produces a reduction of 2/3 of a study day, relative to the current exam schedule.

In the current calendar, exams begin on a Wednesday evening and end 9 1/3 days later on a Friday, with no exams scheduled on Sunday. In the fall, the new schedule will have exams beginning on a Wednesday and ending on a Thursday – with no exams on Sunday. In the spring, exams will begin on a Monday and finish on a Tuesday, with a study break on Friday built into the exam schedule. The exam period will be reduced from 9 1/3 to 9 days in each semester.

The dean of faculty and I are appointing a committee of faculty, students and staff to advise on a final exam schedule that will space-out exams and reduce the number of students who have back-to-back exams or three exams in 24 hours.

Senior Week

There has been debate about the alterations to senior week in the new academic calendar. The student representatives on the Calendar Committee were strong advocates for the benefits of senior week. The majority of the Calendar Committee was most focused on breaks that would reduce student stress during the semester, and the Faculty Senate and the administration agreed. The revised calendar will accommodate senior week programming from Tuesday evening through Friday of that week. I am asking the final exam committee to consider the possibility of creating a schedule that results in the vast majority of seniors ending their exams before the last day of exams.

Calendar Review

Finally, in accordance with the Faculty Senate's resolution, the academic calendar will be subject to periodic review by the Senate's Educational Policy Committee. The first review will be undertaken in spring 2017, three years after the implementation of the revised calendar, with further reviews at five-year intervals.