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D 11611-11613

DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY 



NOTICE OF NO-PROTEST PROCEDURE FOR THE PROPOSED EXTENSION OF THE THANKSGIVING BREAK FROM THE UNIVERSITY ACADEMIC CALENDAR COMMITTEE

To: Voting Members of the General Faculty
From: Dean P. Neikirk, Secretary
Subject: Proposed Extension of the Thanksgiving Break from the University Academic Calendar Committee
Date: May 6, 2014

This notice is to inform you of your opportunity to either accept (by taking no action) or to protest (as described below) legislation that was approved by the Faculty Council on May 5, 2014. The legislation is in the form of a “Proposal from the University Academic Calendar Committee to Extend the Thanksgiving Break,” which proposes extending the Thanksgiving break to include the Wednesday just prior to Thanksgiving. To maintain a minimum of forty-two MWF classes as stipulated in the Principles for Development of the Academic Calendar, the committee proposes that the fall semester begin the fourth Wednesday of August (as we do currently) and extend classes in the fall semester by adding one day ( a Monday) at the end of the semester. Student dead days would then take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, rather than the current Monday and Tuesday, and final exams would start on Thursday, ending on the following Wednesday. The deadline to report final grades would be extended to 4:00 pm on the Friday after finals end. Under this proposal, there would be no change in the number of Friday, Tuesday, or Thursday classes; the number of Monday classes would change from the current thirteen to fourteen, while the number of Wednesday classes would change from the current fifteen to fourteen The proposal, as approved by the Council, can be found online as (D 11508-11512) on the Faculty Council website under Spotlights and Events <http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/>. Attached to this notice is background information for the proposal.

Because the proposal is classified as major legislation, it must, according to the by-laws of the Council, be submitted to the voting members of the General Faculty on a no-protest basis. The legislation will be formally transmitted to the president for approval as General Faculty legislation unless twenty-five voting members submit written protests to the secretary by May 19, 2014. If sufficient protests are received, the legislation will be presented to the General Faculty for discussion at a specially scheduled meeting at the beginning of the fall term.

Protests, including the name of the protestor and the reason(s) for the protest, may be sent to the Office of the General Faculty by email at fc@austin.utexas.edu or mailed to one of the following addresses:

Campus Mail: WMB 2.102, F9500
U.S. Mail: Office of the General Faculty
University of Texas at Austin
P.O. Box 7816
Austin, TX 78713-7816




Appendix A

Background
In November 2013, the Senate of College Councils endorsed a resolution in support of an extended Thanksgiving break that would allow a travel day for students and would also provide additional study time close to the final exam period. The resolution points out that many of our peer institutions offer the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving as an official holiday. The students requested that the University Academic Calendar Committee consider their resolution.

The University Academic Calendar Committee considered the Senate of College Councils resolution and agreed with the students that, unlike the proposed Fall Break (D 10139-10147) considered by the Faculty Council and General Faculty last year, cancelling classes the Wednesday before Thanksgiving would have little impact on instruction given that the majority of laboratories are not taught during that week. Additionally, many faculty members already do not require attendance or cancel Wednesday class before Thanksgiving to allow students to travel.

The committee met six times since September to consider how the academic calendar and the Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar might be amended to allow for an extended Thanksgiving break and maintain seventy days of instruction in the fall semester.

Following are four options that were presented to the Faculty Council for discussion on March 17, 2014, (D 11445-11449) and a summary of the dialogue for each:
  1. To maintain a minimum of forty-two MWF classes as stipulated in the Principles for Development of the Academic Calendar, we begin the fall semester the fourth Wednesday of August (as we do currently) and extend classes in the fall semester through the first dead day.
      Students were not in favor of giving up a dead day.

  2. To maintain a minimum of forty-two MWF classes as stipulated in the Principles for Development of the Academic Calendar, we begin the fall semester the fourth Monday of August.
      This option would negatively impact orientation programs and freshmen welcoming sessions that currently run on the Monday and Tuesday before the session begins. It also would compress the time between the summer and fall sessions and would lessen study/travel time for faculty and students participating in study abroad programs and for international students returning to campus. In addition, UT Austin tended to align the start of the fall session with AISD’s schedule.

  3. We begin the fall semester the fourth Tuesday of August and change the Principles for Development of the Academic Calendar from forty-two MWF classes to forty-one MWF classes.
      This option was the least preferred because the majority of faculty members did not want to give up a class day. They felt that it was already difficult to cover course material in the timeframe allowed as compared to the spring session, which has one full week more of instruction as compared to the fall.

         
  4. To maintain a minimum of forty-two MWF classes as stipulated in the Principles for Development of the Academic Calendar, we begin the fall semester the fourth Tuesday of August and treat that Tuesday as a Wednesday.
      The main objection to this option was that it created serious scheduling issues for the registrar’s office and many felt that it would be too confusing for students, especially freshmen.

Other questions and issues that emerged from Faculty Council discussions:

  1. Concern of calendar creep. Many faculty  members felt that if students were given the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, they would then take Tuesday, and maybe even Monday off as well. Some members said this could be controlled by the content presented on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was also expressed that it is a student’s choice to skip class, and if they were to miss important class material, they would suffer the consequences.

  2. Why not shorten the final exam period? The committee did consider this as an option and found that it was not feasible to reduce the number of exam days.

  3. Would graduate students’ dissertations and thesis be due the Friday before the last class day or on Monday, the last class day? Dean Judith Langlois said that she would have to study the impact of extending the deadline to Monday. If it is not feasible, a statement would be made in the Graduate School catalog that would clarify when the reports are due.
For more detailed information on the discussions, refer to the Faculty Council minutes of March 17 and April 14.