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On behalf of the University Academic Calendar Committee, Professor Jon Olson (petroleum and geosystems engineering) submitted the following proposal to change The Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar allowing the McCombs School of Business to operate under a separate fall semester calendar for first year MBA program. The secretary has classified the resolution as general legislation. It will be voted on by the Faculty Council at its meeting on January 25, 2010.
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The Faculty Council and General Faculty






Proposal Summary
The University Academic Calendar Committee proposes a change to the document titled The Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar in response to the request by McCombs School of Business for a modified fall semester schedule for their first year MBA students. The proposed change is to add the following 13th principle to the UT Austin calendar document:

13. The calendar for the MBA program in the McCombs School of Business is established by the McCombs School of Business. It must conform to Coordinating Board principles. In setting its calendar, the McCombs School of Business shall also follow the pattern established by the preceding principles as closely as possible.

McCombs School Request
The University Academic Calendar Committee received a request from the McCombs school Associate Dean Eric Hirst to “institutionalize” the modified fall calendar that they used in fall 2009. The most significant changes requested were the following, all of which would only pertain to the 1st semester, full-time MBA graduate students in the McCombs School of Business:

  1. Start fall classes on the Monday of the week preceding the official first class day of the rest of the university. All of these classes meet in rooms which are under the sole control of the McCombs school – no general purpose classrooms would be involved.
  2. Divide the MBA classes into two mini-sessions, with one set of finals at mid-semester and one at the end of the semester. These half-semester courses would count for two credit hours.
  3. Provide the 1st semester MBA students with a three-day Career Trek immediately after mid-semester finals, during which they could travel to job fairs and visit companies.
  4. The schedule for the most part does not have class meetings on Fridays to allow for career development related extra-curricular activities.

Dean Hirst made his proposal to the committee in a memo dated October 6, 2009, in which he outlines the motivations for the modified calendar, the experience to date, and expected impact on the rest of the university. In general, he argues that added calendar flexibility is required to improve the competitive stance of the McCombs school in relation to its peers as well as to enhance student career development. He reports that students and faculty were happy with the new schedule, and the perceived impact on the rest of the university was minimal, particularly because the classrooms involved were solely under McCombs school control and not from the general inventory.

Analysis from the Registrar’s Office
Before the calendar committee met to consider the proposal, Associate Registrar Mike Allen did an analysis of the following factors, which was distributed to the committee for consideration:

  1. the class scheduling practices of peer MBA schools,
  2. compliance of the new schedule with Coordinating Board guidelines for class time,
  3. compliance with existing UT Austin calendar guidelines (as stated in The Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar),
  4. possible administrative difficulties that could arise from the McCombs school request, and
  5. possible alternative solutions to the McCombs school’s desire for a more flexible schedule.

Also, before the Calendar Committee’s meeting, Dean Hirst was given an opportunity to comment on the registrar’s analysis. Although Dean Hirst commended Mike Allen for a balanced, well-researched and creative report, he reported that none of the alternative plans suggested by the registrar (that did not violate existing UT Austin calendar guidelines) were attractive to the McComb’s school.

Committee Deliberations
The University Academic Calendar Committee met on October 30 to discuss whether to accommodate the McCombs school request. All committee members were supplied with the documents submitted by Dean Hirst and Associate Registrar Allen. Five of the committee’s ten voting members were in attendance at the meeting, along with nonvoting member Allen. The attending committee members voted unanimously to modify the calendar principles in order to accommodate the McCombs school request. Important factors in making that decision were

  1. The classrooms involved were not in the general inventory and were used exclusively by the McCombs school, such that a modified schedule would not impact classroom usage for the rest of the university.
  2. The proposed modified schedule, as analyzed by the registrar’s office, meets Coordinating Board principles with regard to contact hours required per earned credit hour (fifteen hours of contact time per semester credit hour), and limits on maximum student course load (no more than one semester credit hour earned per calendar week).
  3. The need for the McCombs school to modify their schedule in order to be competitive with peer programs was convincing, and the registrar’s analysis confirmed that other schools operate on comparable flexible schedules compared to the rest of their home institutions.
  4. The MBA program is a somewhat comparable professional program to the law school, and the law school operates on its own calendar, which differs from the rest of the University.
  5. Associate Registrar Allen did not foresee any prohibitive cost, administrative or logistical obstacle to implementing the McCombs school proposal.

One possible difficulty with the McCombs school’s proposed schedule was indicated in Associate Registrar Allen’s report – that the principle of having at least seventy class days in a semester would not be met. The committee discussed this apparent discrepancy, and decided that the Coordinating Board’s principles with regard to contact hours per credit hour and maximum course load were the truly important requirements, and not meeting the seventy day guideline did not detract from the MBA program’s educational experience.

In wrapping up our meeting, we discussed the possible disadvantages of our proposed calendar principle change. The main concern was that there was a possible danger that other academic programs would now feel they could change their schedules to diverge from the rest of the University, and this “slippery slope” effect could lead to chaos in the academic calendar. However, the McCombs school represents a fairly unique situation in that it is a graduate program using exclusive classroom resources. In the committee’s assessment, for what it is worth, we feel that it should be pretty clear that no undergraduate program utilizing general purpose classrooms and requiring class scheduling coordination with other departments could expect such calendar flexibility.

Finally, with regard to vote counts for the proposal, our initial October meeting had five of the ten voting members in attendance, and they all voted for the calendar policy change. There was some question as to whether five out of ten was a quorum, but this past week I circulated the language of the 13th principle to the entire committee via e-mail, and received nine affirmative votes to forward the recommendation to the Faculty Council. The tenth member of the committee has not yet responded, but the nine yes votes clearly approve the recommendation.

Appendix A (pdf): Request for Calendar Change for Full-Time MBA Program.
Appendix B (pdf): : The Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar.
Appendix C (pdf): Registrar's Response to MBA Program Request to the University Academic Calendar Committee.
Appendix D (pdf): Red McCombs School of Business Response to the Registrar.

Distributed through the Faculty Council web site on January 20, 2010.