/Faculty Senate debates changing calendar for 2020-2021

Faculty Senate debates changing calendar for 2020-2021

SGA President Tori Irvin presenting survey results to Faculty Senate. Photo by Harrison Neville

Recently, the SGA senate released a survey to the student body polling their numbers to see how many students would be open to the idea of having a shorter summer break in exchange for a longer Thanksgiving break.  

The SGA does not have the authority to make such a change themselves, so after approving it, they sent it on to Faculty Senate. 

At the Jan. 31 senate meeting, faculty members met to hear SGA president Tori Irvin present the survey’s findings.  

At the time of the meeting, just over 400 students had responded to the survey.  

According to Irvin, the majority of students said that they would prefer to have a full break for the Thanksgiving holiday. This majority amounted to a total of 96 percent of participants.  

The next question on the survey asked whether the students would be willing to start school a full week earlier to have this break.  

In the survey, 33.5 percent responded that they would not want to sacrifice a week of summer for the Thanksgiving holiday. Irvin was quick to explain that there was an error in the survey and that it was her hope that the early return would also allow for a fall break.  

Irvin stated that some of the students against the change said in the comments on the survey that they did not want to change things because the current schedule fit in with local schools’ schedules. 

Irvin stated that there were some comments on the survey from students who had to travel long distances to get home for Thanksgiving about how a longer break would give them more time to travel and spend time with their families. Irvin felt that this could be particularly beneficial for international students.  

To counter this, one of the professors argued that it seemed unlikely that many international students would make an international trip twice in the year, but other senate members pointed out that, excluding residents in Peck, Lund and Brooke Halls, students are kicked out of residence halls during Thanksgiving and the University shuts down.  

Alternative schedules were provided by Amanda Fox from the registrar’s office. One schedule included both a fall break and a full week for Thanksgiving, while the other only included a fall break and no changes to Thanksgiving. In both alternatives, classes would start on Aug. 17, which is a week earlier than its usual starting date.  

As Dr. Valentine, Faculty Senate President stated, “whether we just take two days off to make it a complete week for Thanksgiving or whether we take both a full week off and a fall break we still start one week earlier.”  

Valentine stated that the reason for this was the need to “correspond to the required number of minutes per class in the fall semester.” 

Among the many concerns voiced by the faculty, there was great concern over the fact that students with Tuesday/Thursday classes would be going a full 12 days without any instruction. Some felt that this could cause a problem due to final exams coming so quickly after Thanksgiving break. 

The idea was tossed out that the school could go longer in December instead of removing time in the summer, and Irvin said that there were comments in the survey from students saying that they would not want the days taken out of the Christmas break because it was already shorter than it had been previously. 

There was also concern over how this would affect the students who were taking summer classes since this would mean a faster turnaround for them. 

“I think Fall Semester needs a break-up, because in Spring Semester we have Spring Break,” Irvin said. “But in Fall it just keeps going, and it’s easy to get burnt out.” 

One of the most important factors, of course, would be how the change would affect the Physical Plant’s ability to prepare the school for classes. Director of the Physical Plant Coty Jones was on hand to answer questions regarding the impact upon the Physical Plant.  

Jones explained that the Olympic Development Program (ODP) runs in the summer and uses every single dormitory, meaning that once the camp is over, the Physical Plant workers have a month to go through about 1,200 dorm rooms and get them ready. 

According to Jones, if the time to get things ready was shortened by a week then that would mean that after ODP the University would be unable to have any more overnight camps, some of which do bring in revenue for the University.  

There are currently three or four camps that would have to be cancelled. 

Jones highlighted both sides of the coin, though, stating that if Thanksgiving break was lengthened, “we could actually do work inside some of the buildings. Three days is not enough time to do a project, you need at least a week.” 

As the discussion wound down, Valentine made clear the Senate’s need to produce a questionnaire for faculty members and encouraged all the Senators to bring the issue up within their departments.  

On the subject of how the potential change might affect academics, Valentine said, “It might help because people might not get stressed out as much, but coming back you tend to forget a lot, and that’s my main concern.” 

If any changes occur, they will be made to the 2020-2021 calendar.

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Harrison Neville is the previous Editor in chief for The Alabamian. He is a fourth-year English major whose hobbies include reading, hiking, cooking and writing. He has previously worked for The Alabamian as a managing editor, distribution manager, copy editor and SGA columnist.