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C-2 Calendar Committee

Members: Fiona C. Booth, Dana L. Cloud (communication studies), Colleen M. Fairbanks (curriculum and instruction), Von Matthew Hammond (student government representative), Melvin E. L. Oakes (physics), Edward W. Odell (mathematics), David J. Saltman (mathematics), Robert C. Solomon (philosophy), Paul B. Woodruff (Plan II Honors Program), Carol C. Holmgreen (administrative adviser, Official Publications).

The committee met on November 30, 2001. On the agenda were two items:
1. The issue of including religious holidays on the calendar.
2. Approval of the academic calendar for 2003-2004.

Item one was brought to the committee by Bruce Palka, chair of the Faculty Council, with the following charge:

"I would like the Calendar Committee to work with the cognizant University authorities to ensure that the information appearing in official UT calendars with regard to religious holidays is sufficient to allow for the planning of activities (e.g., tests, meetings, interviews) without inadvertently in
fringing upon the rights of members of the UT community to observe such holidays."
Apparently this arose due to several instances of people acting inappropriately. In any event, the Calendar Committee felt that this was a quagmire and there was no support for recommending that religious holidays be listed on the University calendar. The committee did feel that it would be good to more prominently advertise the University policy each semester with respect to observance of religious holidays. This was communicated to various people in the administration who are concerned with such matters.

The consideration of item two raised another concern. The legislature has recently passed a law forbidding school districts from beginning the fall semester before a certain date. This would have the effect of pushing their graduation date back a week or more. In that we begin our summer semester in early June each year, we might have an overlap problem that could affect the eight or nine hundred new students who begin their studies each summer. It was decided that the calendar would be tentatively approved subject to the chair and administrative adviser alerting the appropriate people in the University of the potential problem and gathering more information to actually assess the situation. This was done. The evidence suggests that for the summer 2003 session there may be a minor problem for a few students but nothing serious. This needs to be watched carefully by the Calendar Committee in the future. A number of school districts are requesting waivers currently. This could change. The committee was informed by email and told that the calendar would be approved formally unless there was a protest within five days. No protest was registered and the calendar was thus approved.

In January 2002 the committee was asked by the president's office to give advice concerning a possible change in commencement date for this spring:

"As many of you know, we have invited Vincente Fox to speak at commencement on Saturday, May 18. He would like to accept our invitation to be the speaker, but hs a commitment that will not allow him to speak on May 18. However, he would be willing to speak the following Sunday, May 19.

"Dr. Faulkner asked me to seek your advice on the wisdom of changing the main commencement to Sunday, May 19, to take advantage of Mr. Fox's offer to speak on that date."

The committee was asked for a quick email response and this was provided. The ultimately prevailing opinion was provided by Carol Holmgreen, associate registrar, who wrote: "The experience of staff in the registrar's office is that changing the commencement date this late will result in a considerable amount of negative public relations for the University, especially from parents of graduates. That has been the result at other institutions that have done so and the result here when dates or even times of college convocations have changed. If the University is prepared to deal with that, so be it. The commencement date has been published for several years in advance. I receive queries now from parents about future dates as they're trying to plan attending ceremonies at different institutions, weddings, etc. My assumption is that a Sunday commencement would be held in the evening in order to have the fireworks and other gala activities. May temperatures would prohibit an outdoor ceremony during the day. Whether held during the day or the evening, many travel plans would have to change from Sunday to Monday.

"Many parents have already arranged time off from work, acquired airline tickets (probably nonrefundable), and hotel rooms. If Austin has booked a convention beginning Monday, hotel rooms may not be available Sunday night.

"Graduates likewise may have made travel plans, scheduled weddings, and committed to jobs. UT dorms would need to remain open one additional day for students in UT housing.

"Ceremony participants (faculty, choir, symphonic band, production staff) may have made similar plans.

"The group considering the change might talk with Charles Roeckle (president's office) and Joy Lock (natural sciences' assistant dean) who have experienced the wrath of parents when the times of ceremonies have changed. Certainly the associate deans for student affairs of the various colleges would have an idea of the impact of such a change on their students and families. I'm sure others such as Susan Clagett and staff of the Erwin Center are being consulted as well."

In February the committee was asked to comment on another matter by the president's office: Consideration of Proposed Change to Chapter 5, Section 5.6 - Common Calendar Rules.

At its January 24, 2002, meeting, the Coordinating Board proposed a rules change for the common calendar for the 35 public universities and 57 public community, technical, and state colleges in Texas. To coordinate schedules among these institutions, the board has for many years established a common calendar, specifying approximate semester starting dates that apply to each of those institutions. Some flexibility in setting exact start dates is provided to accommodate local needs.

The recommended amendments would remove the common calendar from board rules, assign to the commissioner the responsibility and authority to establish and periodically update a common calendar, and provide the commissioner authority to grant waivers to the common calendar for just cause.

Delegating the routine task of setting the calendar to the commissioner will allow the board to focus its attention on policies and issues of larger concern. It will also allow periodic updating without the requirement of board action.

Attached are the proposed rules that were brought before the Coordinating Board at its January 2002 meeting. These rules were filed with the Texas Register on February 5, 2002, and will appear in the February 22 issue of the Texas Register. The calendar for 2001-2002 to 2011-2012 will be distributed under a separate memo.

The committee agreed it was a good move, one that seems more efficient and also provides colleges with the option to request exceptions through the commissioner.

  Edward Odell, chair


This document was posted on the Faculty Council Web site, www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/ on July 29, 2002. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.

  Last updated:July 29, 2002
  Comments Welcome.
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