Proposed academic calendar change may extend Thanksgiving break for UC Berkeley

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A proposed change to the academic calendar could extend Thanksgiving break by a day in return for starting the fall semester one day earlier.

The adjustment, announced in a campuswide email sent April 3, would create a noninstructional day the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and start the fall semester on a Wednesday instead of the usual Thursday. The proposal would officially take effect in fall 2015 for the 2015-16 school year and last until at least the 2020-21 year. Currently, no UC campus has implemented a noninstructional Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Administered by Vice Provost for Teaching, Learning, Academic Planning and Facilities Cathy Koshland and her office, this possible change is a response to faculty requests regarding historically low attendance rates in classes the day before Thanksgiving break. Another reason for the proposal is that Labor Day, which falls on the first Monday of September, often coincides with the second week of classes, a disadvantage for classes that meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

This is not the first time such a change has been suggested; previous ideas were rejected due to concerns they would disrupt welcome-week events. In a joint email, however, Koshland and Assistant Vice Provost for Teaching, Learning, Academic Planning and Facilities Cynthia Schrager said that after discussions, they determined residence hall move-in and orientation activities will not be affected.

Freshman and Arizona-native Jeff Mortensen said going home a day earlier for Thanksgiving would not only allow him to spend more time at home, but also help him beat the holiday rush for airplane tickets.

“When I buy a plane ticket, it feels like more of a waste to go home for such a short time, but (this) would make it more worth the price,” he said.

Extending Thanksgiving break by a day, however, could prompt students to take the whole week off, which would entail skipping only two instructional days instead of three.

Panayiotis Papadopoulos, campus mechanical engineering professor and vice chair of the UC Berkeley Academic Senate, called this “creep effect” inevitable.

“You can always add more days (of break), but the more days you add, the fewer people will attend,” Papadopoulos said. “The decision to take out Wednesday is a nice compromise.”

Koshland believes this can be combated by creating certain assignments to be due on Monday or Tuesday, thus requiring students to be in class.

The proposal has already been approved by the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate Divisional Council, the Council of Deans, the Council of Undergraduate Deans and other key administrative partners. The last time the campus made a major change to the academic calendar was fall 2009, when Reading, Review and Recitation week was implemented.

The campus community is encouraged to voice its comments and concerns about this new proposal on a Google Form, which will close April 23. The academic calendar will be announced in its final form by the end of this semester.

Contact Heyun Jeong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @heyunjeong.