Annual Report for C-2 University Academic Calendar Committee 2007-2008

Prior to the first meeting of the Calendar Committee (as it was then titled), Michael Allen, Associate Registrar, distributed a packet that contained the following:

  1. Members of the 2007-2008 Calendar Committee
  2. Composition of the Academic Calendar
  3. Academic Calendars for 2006-2007 through 2008-2009
  4. Coordinating Board Regulations Concerning the Common Calendar
  5. Principles for Development of the Academic Calendar
  6. Projected Academic Calendars for 2009-2010
  7. Vertical Calendar for 1999 through 2010

The committee members were as follows:

Elected members:

John R. Allison, Professor, Information, Risk, & Operations Management (chair)
Kenneth M. Ralls, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Willams, Holly A., Associate Professor, Theatre and Dance

Faculty Council appointees:

Elizabeth C. Pomeroy, Professor, School of Social Work
Paul R. Shapiro, Professor, Astronomy

Three students:

Keshav Rajagopalan, Student Government representative
Joshua Ogden-Davis, Student Government representative
Kurstin Runnels-Hamilton, Graduate Student Assembly representative

Staff members

Susan K. Brown, Assistant Dean, pharmacy
Lisa A. Vera, Senior Administrative Associate, Liberal arts
Cynthia M. Sanchez, Senior Administrative Associate, Office of the President

Administrative adviser

Michael D. Allen, Associate Registrar

The committee held two meetings during the year, in addition to having extensive e-mail correspondence among members. The two meetings were held on Sept. 14, 2007 and February 23, 2008.

First meeting: The committee held its first meeting on Sept. 14, 2007, at which it elected Holly A. Williams as vice-chair. At this meeting, Prof. Ken Ralls moved that the name of the Calendar Committee be changed to the University Academic Calendar Committee because of confusion that had been created by the existing name. The committee studied the matter and ultimately voted to propose this change in the name of the committee. The rationale for the proposed name change was as follows:

Rationale: The committee recommends the proposed name change because the current committee name has led to confusion about the committee's role. There are many calendars with which the university community is familiar, such as the Texas Union calendar, but the Calendar Committee has responsibility only for the official academic calendar of the University of Texas at Austin. Adding of the word “Academic” to the committee name will more clearly reflect the precise function of the committee.
In addition, the committee found that several other units on campus, such as the Law School and the LBJ School, have “Academic Calendar Committees,” so the committee also recommends that its name begin with “University.” The committee believes that “University Academic Calendar Committee” is the most descriptive name.

The Faculty Council approved the name change, after which the committee voted to change the reference on the University’s web site from Calendar Committee to University Academic Calendar Committee.

Second meeting: The committee held its second meeting on February 13, 2008. At this meeting, the committee voted to elect the vice-chair, Holly A. Williams, as chair elect for the upcoming 2008-09 academic year.
            Member Ken Ralls noted that, during the previous academic year, 2006-07, the committee had considered a proposal from Keshav Rajagopalan, representing the Student Government, to explore the possibility of having a Fall Break. During 2006-07, the committee exhaustively studied the question and concluded that, at the University of Texas at Austin, a Fall Break was so impracticable as to be impossible. Prof. Ralls observed that, because the question of whether the University should have a Fall Break would probably arise again in the future, it would be worthwhile for this year’s committee to restate its conclusion and rationale from the previous year. Following is the statement of this year’s committee reiterating the impossibility of having a Fall Break at the University.

Statement of the 2007-08 University Academic Calendar Committee
Reiterating the Impossibility of a Fall Break

As stated in the committee’s 2006-07 annual report, members of the Academic Calendar Committee extensively researched and discussed the possibility of adding a Fall Break to the University calendar. Keshav Rajagopalan had previously sent a document called “Fall Break-Summary” to committee members. This summary, prepared by Grant Rauscher, a member of Student Government, contained fall calendar information for some peer institutions. The committee chair, Dr. Kenneth Ralls, also reviewed academic calendars for several peer institutions and found that a few do have a Fall Break of one day or more but most do not. Notably, those peer schools having a Fall Break are typically on a quarter or trimester system rather than a semester system, thus increasing the feasibility of such a break.

The committee also examined concerns about the effect of a Fall Break on laboratory courses in engineering and natural sciences, which are already difficult to schedule in the fall because of the Labor Day and Thanksgiving holidays. The committee further discussed the fact that two examples of universities having a Fall Break (according to Mr. Rauscher's report) are Indiana University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, neither of which has a college (or school) of engineering.

Because the fall semester is already four class days shorter than the spring semester and because laboratory courses would be adversely affected by removing even one additional class day, the committee decided that a Fall Break is so impractical as to be impossible. (The fall semester has 70 class days — 42 on MWF and 28 on TTh; the spring semester has 74 class days — 44 on MWF and 30 on TTh.) Only if additional class days are added to the fall semester would a Fall Break become feasible, but additional days are an impossibility because of constraints on the beginning of the semester and at the end of final examinations. Specifically, legislative restrictions constrain the University’s discretion in deciding when to begin the fall semester. Furthermore, any diminution of the time available between the end of the fall semester and the start of the Christmas break would assume perfection in various administrative processes, allowing no room for error of any kind.

The committee restates its position that a Fall Break at the University of Texas at Austin is simply impossible to accomplish.