View in portable document format.
D 10139-10147


DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY 



FALL BREAK PROPOSAL FROM THE UNIVERSITY ACADEMIC CALENDAR COMMITTEE

On behalf of the University Academic Calendar Committee, Dr. Diane Bailey (committee chair, information) submitted the following proposal recommending the creation of a fall break in the University academic calendar and the amendment of the Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar.

The committee approved the legislation with a vote of 10-0 in favor, with one abstention. On November 13, 2012, the Student Government passed a second resolution in favor of a fall break with a unanimous vote; on November 14, 2012, the Graduate Student Assembly passed a second resolution in favor of the break with a nearly unanimous vote.

The secretary has classified this proposal as legislation of major interest to the general faculty. The Faculty Council will discuss the proposal at its meeting on December 10, 2012, and will vote on the legislation at its meeting on January 28, 2013. Afterwards, the voting members of the General Faculty will consider the proposal on a no-protest basis. Final approval resides with the president with formal notification to UT System.
Sue Greninger signature
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary

General Faculty and Faculty Council

Posted on the Faculty Council website on November 29, 2012.



FALL BREAK PROPOSAL FROM THE UNIVERSITY ACADEMIC CALENDAR COMMITTEE

The University of Texas at Austin
Fall 2012

Proposal. The University Academic Calendar Committee proposes two amendments to the academic calendar and the Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar:
  1. That we include a Fall Break to occur on the Monday and Tuesday of the ninth week of the fall semester each year. (Please see Appendix A for wording of this change in the Principles.)
  2. That, to maintain 70 days of instruction in the fall semester, we begin the fall semester the fourth Monday of August.  (In accordance with existing Principles.)
Rationale. A two-day break in October would provide an opportunity for students (especially freshmen who are adjusting to the demands of college) to regroup after mid-terms.

Features. The proposed changes would:
•  Provide a break in the ten weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
•  Preserve the current 12 whole weeks (weeks with classes on all five days) in the fall semester.
•  Provide an equal number of semester hours (42) for M-W-F and T-Th classes.
•  Largely avoid the OU game weekend, which usually occurs the first or second week of October.
•  Begin in AY 2014-2015, according to the registrar.
Information-Gathering Process. Appendix B details our committee’s process for gathering information related to this proposal. In particular, Table 1 in the appendix lists the University stakeholders whose input we solicited. That input reflected support for, opposition to, and concerns about our proposal.

Support. The student body favors this proposal, as evidenced in the two resolutions passed by student governmental bodies in spring 2012 and passed again (with cognizance of issues raised by the Academic Calendar Committee) in fall 2012. Many individuals from a wide range of academic units also favor this proposal, including stakeholders in the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Education, and Fine Arts, as well as the Jackson School of Geosciences, the Graduate School, the LBJ School of Public Policy, the Schools of Architecture and Information, and the McCombs School of Business. Academic counselors are, in general, strongly in favor. Comments we received in support of the proposal across these stakeholders included “terrific idea,” “emphatically for a break,” “a great mental health break,” “at this point in the semester, my students are experiencing a lot of burnout and it's reflected not just in what they say, but also their demeanor in our interactions,” and “helps us deal with the imbalances across classes.” Several stakeholders canvassed all of their school’s or college’s chairs and reported unanimous support. For example, the School of Liberal Arts polled all of its departments and all were in favor, as exemplified by 32 members of the English department writing in favor of the idea (and none writing against).

Opposition. Not everyone favors a Fall Break. The strongest opposition has come from faculty in the Colleges of Natural Sciences and Engineering, both of which run many lab-based classes. As one stakeholder explained, “The effect on lecture courses is minimal.  The effect on labs could be significant,” and summed up, “We are a solid no, do not do this!” Another wrote, “Labs cannot function with a two day vacation.” Although opposition was strong in these schools, it was not universal. One science professor who taught mostly freshmen favored a break; similarly, an engineering chair in support noted, “Once the lab schedule is figured out, it stays figured out.” Additionally, eight of ten advisors, coordinators, and program directors in the School of Engineering favored the break.

Concerns. The School of Undergraduate Studies, the College of Communication, the Assistant Deans Council, and academic counselors voiced concerns across a range of issues beyond lab scheduling. The most prominent concern was the impact on staff caused by moving the start date forward. As one person commented, “This plans sounds like it is great for faculty and students, but a horrible deal for staff.” Cost was another clear concern, particularly in connection with moving the Gone to Texas Event; this comment reflects that worry, “Not trying to sound like the raincloud here…The main thing that I worry about is in an ever-tightening budget, how it would all pan out in terms of cost.” Some stakeholders who favored a break did so while acknowledging that problems might arise, such as rearranging orientation activities; they thought, however, that sufficient notice would minimize the impact. We discuss the main issues that stakeholders raised (either in opposition to the idea of a break or out of concern about its ramifications) as well as potential resolution of those issues according to the part of the proposal that the issues addressed: Table 2 presents issues related to the early start and Table 3 presents issues related to the two-day mid-October break.

Alternatives. Our committee considered a number of alternatives to a two-day mid-October break, and these alternatives deserve a brief mention here. Not a few stakeholders favored giving the entire week of Thanksgiving off instead of two days in October. Students, however, do not favor that timing because it comes too late in the semester, close to when many projects and papers are due. Moreover, offering a three-day, as opposed to a two-day, break while still maintaining 70 days of instruction (per the Principles) would require starting school even earlier than the fourth Monday of August. Extending the semester at the opposite end of the calendar is infeasible due to the triumvirate of dead days, exams days, and winter holidays. Although the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is willing to grant the University a waiver to allow such an early August start, it seems unlikely that students, staff, and faculty with young school-age children will be willing to start the semester in advance of the AISD start. We considered other arrangements as well (e.g., the Wednesday before Thanksgiving paired with a single day in October), but none seemed as likely as our proposal to address students’ need for a mid-term break.

APPENDIX A. CHANGES TO PRINCIPLES
(changes appear in bold text in Principle 3 below)

Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar

These principles were originally promulgated in April 1975, and amended by the University Council in April 1979; March 1983; and February 1984; and by administrative action in June 1990. They were amended by the University Council in April 1992, and again by the Faculty Council in April 2007.
1. Coordinating Board guidelines shall be followed in establishing the beginning dates, length of session, and ending dates of all sessions.
2. The committee considers a seventy-five day semester (comprising forty-five Monday, Wednesday, and Friday meeting days and thirty Tuesday and Thursday meeting days) to be ideal in length. Realizing the impossibility of achieving this in the fall semester, the committee holds that there shall be a minimum of seventy class days in a semester (forty-two Monday, Wednesday, and Friday meeting days and twenty-eight Tuesday and Thursday meeting days).
3. In the fall, Labor Day will be observed, a Fall Break will be observed (Monday and Tuesday of the ninth week of the semester), and the three-day Thanksgiving holiday (Thursday through Saturday) will be observed.
4. In the spring, Martin Luther King Day will be observed.
5. In the spring, the University will recess for one week’s vacation beginning the Monday after the eighth week of classes.
6. In the summer, Independence Day (July 4) shall be observed if it falls on a weekday.
7. Long-session semesters should begin on Monday whenever possible. Long-session graduation days should occur on Saturday, except when the fall graduation day would otherwise be on December 25, then Friday, December 24, will be designated graduation day.
8. The following pattern for setting final examination periods in the long session should be observed:
Friday — Last class day
Saturday
Sunday — No-class day
Monday — No-class day
Tuesday — No-class day
Wednesday — Exam day #1
Thursday — Exam day #2
Friday — Exam day #3
Saturday — Exam day #4
Sunday — No-class day
Monday — Exam day #5
Tuesday — Exam day #6
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday — Graduation day
9. There shall be at least one full week between Commencement in the spring and the beginning of the summer session and at least one full week between graduation day in the summer and the beginning of the fall semester.
10. The summer session shall be of eleven weeks duration, comprising two five and one-half week terms (including registration, class days, and examination days). A schedule will also be provided for nine-week and whole-session courses. There will be a minimum of twenty-five class days in the first term and twenty-five class days in the second term. Second-term registration will run concurrent with the first-term final examinations.
11. Two-day periods for examinations shall be provided for all summer terms and sessions.
12. The calendar of the School of Law is established by the School of Law. It must conform to Coordinating Board principles and to the rules of the American Bar Association. In setting its calendar, the School of Law shall also follow the pattern established by the preceding principles as closely as possible.
13.1 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.

1 Revision approved by the Faculty Council on January 25, 2010, and approved by the president on March 18, 2010 (D 7791-7806).

APPENDIX B. COMMITTEE’S INFORMATION-GATHERING PROCESS

Background. In spring 2012, the Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly passed resolutions in favor of a fall break, which our committee had begun investigating in fall 2011. We strove to first ensure feasibility of a break, and then to assess its desirability.

 Feasibility. We found no University or regulatory restrictions that would prevent a fall break. Specifically, a fourth Monday start date does not violate Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) guidelines, nor, according to the University housing staff, does it pose a problem in switching student residences over from summer session to fall session. In fact, the THECB is willing to grant the University, if needed, a 10-year waiver, with possibility of renewal, if we wished to push our start date even earlier. Under the current proposal, however, no such waiver is required.

 Desirability. Our committee sought feedback via individual emails in spring 2012 from more than 30 stakeholders across campus on the idea, in general, of a fall break. Please see Table 1 for a list of stakeholders, among which was a number of associate and assistant deans in charge of student affairs and academic programs across the University’s schools and colleges. The list also included directors of various operations, athletics directors, and presidents of staff and faculty councils. In fall 2012, we again sought feedback from these stakeholders on the specific timing of the Monday and Tuesday of the ninth week, with the two-day early semester start. In each round of feedback, many stakeholders forwarded our request for feedback to staff and faculty in their units and passed that input on to us, thereby increasing our reach. For example, in the College of Engineering, the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs provided feedback from faculty chairs as well as ten directors, coordinators and advisors; in the College of Natural Sciences, the Associate Dean for Curriculum and Programs forwarded input from three department chairs, who had canvassed their faculty members; the president of the Academic Counselors Association polled his University members via a two-question survey and forwarded to us the 38 detailed responses he received. Overall, we received responses from all but 5 of the 38 stakeholders on our list. Responses ranged from highly in favor to strongly against the proposed break. 

Exploring Issues. We concluded our process by exploring issues put forward in opposition to or in concern over our proposal. Our goal was not to achieve solutions, which in some cases fall beyond the scope of this committee, but to determine the contours and boundaries of each issue and to identify, where possible, potential solutions or insurmountable obstacles. To this end, we culled from the responses the main issues and followed up with key individuals across campus or in the community who might best help us sort them out. We summarize those issues and the results of our inquiries in our proposal. 

Resolution. Because we concluded from our inquiries into the issues raised that the main arguments had reasonable potential solutions, we have put forward this proposal for a fall break.

Table 1. List of Stakeholders Contacted by the University Academic Calendar Committee
1 Bernstein Mark Associate Dean for Student Affairs College of Communication
2 Rocha Darrell Assistant Dean for Student Affairs College of Communication
3 Flores Richard Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs College of Liberal Arts
4 Gore Patricia Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Cockrell School of Engineering
5 Field Sherry Associate Dean for Teacher Education, Student Affairs, and Administration (Spring 2012) College of Education
6 Maloch Beth Associate Dean for Teacher Education, Student Affairs, and Administration (Fall 2012) College of Education
7 Hale Kenneth Senior Associate Dean (Spring 2012) College of Fine Arts
8 Martin Rachel Assistant Dean for Student Affairs (Fall 2012) College of Fine Arts
9 Kopp Sacha Associate Dean for Curriculum and Programs College of Natural Sciences
10 Davis Pat Senior Associate Dean, Academic Affairs College of Pharmacy
11 Kahn Terry Associate Dean, Graduate Student Services Graduate School
12 Bennett Philip Associate Dean, Academic Affairs Jackson School of Geosciences
13 Stolp Chandler Associate Dean, Academic Affiars LBJ School of Public Affairs
14 Newman Paul Senior Associate Dean McCombs School of Business
15 Oden Michael Associate Dean, Research and Operations School of Architecture
16 Doty Philip Associate Dean School of Information
17 Ramos Rey Assistant Dean, Student Affairs School of Law
18 Carpenter Linda Assistant Dean, Student Affairs School of Nursing
19 Schwab James Associate Dean and Graduate Advisor School of Social Work
20 Abraham Lawrence Associate Dean School of Undergraduate Studies
21 Leslie Steven Provost Administration
22 Reagins-Lilly Soncia Senior Associate Vice President  for Student Affairs Office of the Dean of Students
23 Gonzalez Juan Vice President for Student Affairs Student Affairs
24 Roeckle Charles Deputy to the President Office of the President
25 Raney Mike Assistant Dean, Chair of the Assistant Deans Committee (Spring 2012) College of Natural Sciences
26 Spight David Assistant Dean, Chair of the Assistant Deans Committee (Fall 2012) School of Undergraduate Studies
27 Martinez Marla Associate Vice President, University Operations University Operations
28 Kress Debra Associate Vice President, Human Resources University Operations
29 Kraal Steven Senior Associate Vice President, Campus Planning and Facilities Management University Operations
30 Harkins Bob Associate Vice President, Campus Safety and Security University Operations
31 Aebersold Liz Director ITS Communication and Strategy Management
32 Dodds DeLoss Athletics Director Men’s Athletics
33 Plonsky Christine Athletics Director Women’s Athletics
34 Thomas Theresa President, Executive committee (Spring 2012) Academic Counselors Association
35 Vickers Nathan President, Executive committee (Fall 2012) Academic Counselors Association
36 Frahm Erika Chair Staff Council
37 Friedman Alan Chair (Spring 2012) Faculty Council
38 Hilley Martha Chair Elect (Spring 2012) and Chair (Fall 2012) Faculty Council

Table 2. Main Issues with Starting Two Days Early and Their Potential Resolution
Issue Argument Potential Resolution
Interferes with Gone to Texas If Gone to Texas is held on a Sunday, the night before the start of classes under this proposal, some individuals may not want to attend due to religious beliefs. Additionally, some colleges may not be able to afford overtime pay to staff to assist with Gone to Texas over the weekend. Overall, costs for the University and for individual colleges and schools may rise by 30% or more.   We met with Rod Caspers and Doug Bolin of University Events. They note that a change would indeed be a serious disruption. Other dates, however, might work for the University-wide culminating event at the Tower (e.g., the Friday before school starts or the Friday of the first week). The event would then change in tone and content; schools and colleges would need to reconfigure their events. All told, shifting Gone to Texas is doable, but not trivial.
Stands to Increase Staff Workload The smaller colleges may not have enough advisors to simultaneously do end of summer graduation processing of grades and certification (summer grades are not due until the fourth Monday of August, hence the processing of them would fall during the first week of classes), the final fall orientation advising, Gone to Texas, and other start-up events. We met with Erika Frahm, president of the Staff Council. If Gone to Texas is moved to the weekend before classes start, solutions to the problem of staff overload, which will likely be greatest in the small schools, will be needed. If Gone to Texas is moved to the Friday before or after classes start, we think this strain should be largely, albeit not completely, alleviated.
Conflicts with UGS Freshman Reading Round-Up This event, in its ninth year and held the day before the first class day, might not get the same turnout (~1000 students) if held on the weekend or the week before classes start.  The event relies entirely on voluntary participation of 50+ faculty and needs 50-60 small to mid-sized centrally- located rooms simultaneously. We spoke with Lara Harlan, director of the event. She sees the most difficulty in a Sunday or Friday evening slot for this event. Other dates are possible, but faculty and student participation might be more difficult to secure.
Coincides with AISD Start Because the Austin Independent School District starts classes on the fourth Monday of August, moving our start day to this same date would increase traffic on that day. Traffic may indeed be higher that day if parents drive children to school instead of putting them on the bus. The campus community would need to bear that in mind when making travel plans.

Table 3. Main Issues with a Mid-October Break and Their Potential Resolution
Issue Argument Potential Resolution
Poses Problems with Lab-Based Classes Lab-based classes, such as those in the natural sciences and engineering, currently have 12 whole weeks in the fall. Whole weeks are needed because set-ups are done over the weekends to allow all students to complete the same lab in the same week. Although the proposed change preserves 12 whole weeks, stakeholders argue that the first week of classes is not practical for labs due to student adds and drops. A break in the middle of the semester causes disruption on top of that introduced by Thanksgiving. Eleven weeks are insufficient given accreditation concerns. The problem of adds/drops is primarily with automatic ones in the first 4 days, which would fall in the first week under our proposal. Under the current schedule, the 4th day of automatic add/drop falls in the second week, arguably removing that week as a full week, leaving only 11 weeks. Top ranked schools, including Yale, Brown, Michigan, UC Berkeley, and Ohio State, have only 11 whole weeks in the fall; Harvard has only 10. Thus, accreditation must be possible with only 11 weeks. Certainly, the break would require changes in the lab schedule, but they should be a one-time cost.
Disrupts Recruitment A mid-October break would come at a peak time for interviewing on campus (interviewing rooms in some schools are fully booked), especially for upper division students, and it would be difficult to schedule potential employers around those dates. No one is saying that students on the market for a job should go home or away for this break; in fact, they can use a fall break to polish their resume and to interview. A fall break should be a boon to their cause, and recruiters might move events to this break.
Disrupts Advising A mid-October break would occur in the middle of registration advising, pushing an already tight schedule because advising starts much earlier in some schools than is listed on the academic calendar. Conceivably, advising could be advanced by two days, a move that would require the spring schedule to be available earlier.
Competes with Family Weekend As proposed, the fall break would end the Tuesday of the same week that Family Weekend is held. Some families may not be able to incur the cost of their student traveling home at the beginning of the week that they will be traveling to visit campus. It is unclear that students will travel during the fall break. They may use it as a time to relax and regroup on campus. New events might emerge that would attract them to stay. Nonetheless, Family Weekend may experience a drop in participation.