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DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY
REPORT OF THE CALENDAR COMMITTEE
ACADEMIC YEAR 1999-2000
Catharine Echols (psychology) filed with the Secretary of the Faculty Council the following report of the Calendar Committee.
John R. Durbin, Secretary
The Faculty Council
REPORT OF THE CALENDAR COMMITTEE
ACADEMIC YEAR 1999-2000
Committee Members. Catharine Echols, chair (psychology), Ronald Barr (mechanical engineering), Diana DiNitto (social work), Colleen Fairbanks (curriculum and instruction), Vincent Mariani (art history), Andrew Riggsby (classics), Jack Robertson (accounting), Atisha Patel (student), Robyn Rosen (student), Carol Holmgreen, administrative advisor (Office of the Registrar)
Meetings. After the initial convening meeting, the committee met twice, once on November 5, 1999, and a second time on December 7, 1999. At the first of these meetings, the committee was joined by Eric Opiela, Student Government Vice President, who presented a recommendation from the Student Assembly calling for the establishment of "dead days" during the summer session. Susana Alemàn, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs in the School of Law, also attended to discuss possible changes in the Law School Calendar. At the second meeting, the committee was joined by representatives from the College of Liberal Arts, Housing and Food Services, and the Dean of Students who were invited to discuss constraints on the summer schedule that could affect feasibility of summer dead days.
Summer Dead Days Proposal. At the September meeting of the Faculty Council, the Calendar Committee was charged with evaluating the Recommendation from Student Assembly for Establishment of a Summer Dead Day. Specifically, the proposal called for adding one no-class day immediately prior to the final exam period of each of the six-week summer sessions and, if possible, of the nine week summer session. The goal of the proposed change was to provide students with additional time to study for final exams; "dead days" presently are included for this purpose in the calendars for the fall and spring semesters.
The membership of the Calendar Committee was highly sympathetic to the request for summer dead days. At the November 5 meeting, however, a number of possible scheduling constraints were raised that could restrict the feasibility of adding days to the summer schedule. Possible constraints restricting the beginning dates of the summer session included (a) high school ending and graduation dates, which tend to be in late May or early June; (b) the Universitys ability to provide housing and other services to participants in the Special Olympics; (c) the need for time following the close of the spring semester for deans offices to review appeals of academic dismissal; (d) Housing and Food Services need for time to clean dorm rooms to make them available for summer students. There did not appear to be time to add days at the end of the summer session because, as it is, dorms are reopening for early arrivals the same day they close and various fall semester activities are beginning while the second summer session is concluding.1 The discussion of various constraints affecting the beginning dates of summer sessions suggested that additional information was needed
1 On May 8, 2000, the Calendar Committee requested that this sentence be modified to read "dorms are reopening for early arrivals the same day..." instead of "dorms are reopening the same day..."
from the affected entities within and outside of the University before a decision could be made regarding the introduction of additional days into the schedule.
At the December 7 meeting, Mary Duncan and Sean Stevens from the College of Liberal Arts discussed constraints imposed by scholastic appeals and the summer provisional students program, Mary Beth Mercatoris from the Dean of Students discussed constraints imposed by the summer orientation program, and Kathy Hatcher and Sarah Kay from Housing and Food Services discussed constraints imposed by their services. In addition, Carol Holmgreen had produced projected calendars, for each of the academic years through 2010, that included summer dead days. Additional information regarding past and projected high school graduation dates also was presented.2
Several problems were identified in the projected calendars, including (a) summer registration would begin in May most years, which could create difficulties for students entering from high school; (b) in many years, orientation might have to overlap with registration; (c) in a few cases, summer dead days could be added only by beginning the spring semester earlier, with the result that only one or two work days would be available before the beginning of the spring semester for orientations and scholastic appeals; a later beginning date would result in only three days between commencement and the summer session. Information on high school ending and graduation dates was limited (many districts reported that they did not have this information readily available for other than the current year); the data that were available suggested ending dates in the third and fourth weeks of May, with some graduation dates extending into early June.
With the summer provisional program, a primary concern was the ability to notify students sufficiently early that they can arrange to attend other schools if they do not meet the criteria for continuation at The University of Texas; as it is, arrangements have been made to end the required math and English courses early to permit early submission of grades. However, notification would not be affected if the extra days were added at the beginning rather than at the end of the summer session. Additional concerns were raised about giving this group of students, who already are at a disadvantage, even less time for transition from high school to the University and limiting their orientation time.
The representatives from Housing and Food Services suggested that one of the biggest problems for them would be maintenance projects that require closure of facilities; efforts are made to do these projects during holiday periods, but the windows for doing such projects are getting increasingly restricted. The likelihood of increased housing costs to the students, due to the addition of 3-5 days of dormitory operation, was mentioned. Concerns were also raised about making staff available for the summer provisional students: it would be necessary to move staff around to prepare for this group, and the training of resident assistants and other staff would become even more compressed than it is at present; even now the residence halls are being opened for the summer while staff are being trained.
The most intractable problems revolved around summer orientation and, specifically, the registration component of summer orientation. During their summer orientations, incoming freshman meet with advisors and register for their fall courses. Due to limitations on the Universitys facilities, staff and computer resources, this registration process cannot occur while new and continuing students are registering for their summer classes.3 Consequently, the registration component of the freshman orientation cannot begin until after the close of summer session registration for the first summer session, and it cannot occur during registration for the second summer session. Furthermore, all of the freshman orientation sessions must be completed by about July 15 to permit fee bills to be generated sufficiently early that students can receive the bills and pay them before the beginning of the fall semester. Additional constraints on the beginning dates of summer registration are imposed by high school graduation dates; additional constraints on the ending dates include the Honors Colloquium and Camp Texas, both of which use many of the same staff who assist with
2 The Calendar Committee added the names of representatives on May 8, 2000.
3 The Calendar Committee revised this sentence on May 8, 2000, from "Due to limitations on the University's computer resources, this registration process cannot occur while continuing students are registering for their classes."
the summer orientation programs. However, it is the registration constraints that appeared to be most difficult to resolve. Mary Beth Mercatoris of the Dean of Students office noted that adding two days to the summer schedule would, for all but one of the projected calendars, make it impossible to schedule the required number of orientation sessions. Committee members explored a number of possible solutions, but ultimately concurred with Ms. Mercatoris assessment.
It should be noted that the impact of adding two no-class days to the summer schedule may extend beyond two days because many of the activities scheduled during the summer require blocks of three or four days. For example, freshman orientation sessions require four days. Annual variation in the timing of particular holidays further complicates the scheduling. Due to the requirement for blocks of days, the addition of two days to the summer session could, in some years, result in a need to begin the first session up to a full week earlier.
One additional issue that was raised was the question of the need for summer dead days. Although it seems reasonable to expect that summer dead days would be useful to students, no one present at the meeting was aware of any evidence that might support this assumption. Given the disruption that summer dead days would cause, including disruptions that might have negative impacts on students (e.g., due to reduced time between the completion of high school and entrance into the university, compression of orientation schedules, inadequate advising for registration) it would be valuable to have evidence that the addition of these days would be advantageous to students (though committee members acknowledged that it may be difficult to obtain direct evidence of such advantages, particularly given that other Big 12 universities and other Texas universities do not have summer dead days, and committee members were not aware of any universities that do have them).
Summary and Recommendation on the Summer Dead Days Proposal. Although the Calendar Committee supports the principle of summer dead days, a review of the various constraints on the summer schedule indicates that the introduction of summer dead days is not feasible at this time. Consequently, the Calendar Committee does not recommend that the Faculty Council support the Recommendation from Student Assembly for Establishment of a Summer Dead Day. The committee recommends that the issue of summer dead days be reconsidered if barriers change, for example if additional computer resources became available that permit fall registration for incoming freshman and summer registration for continuing students to occur concurrently. Furthermore, the committee suggests that the issue be reexamined if compelling evidence is provided that summer dead days will be of significant benefit to students.
Approval of 2001-2002 Calendar. The committee reviewed the proposed calendar for the long session 2001-2002 and the summer session 2002. No problems were identified. Consequently, the Calendar Committee recommends approval of the proposed 2001-2002 calendar.
This report was posted on the Faculty Council web site (http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/) on February 15, 2000. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500. This document was revised after the date of circulation as indicated in the footnotes.