NEWS: Faculty vote to approve changes to Thanksgiving break, fall semester


Thanksgiving break will begin on the day before Thanksgiving starting this fall, after a unanimous vote by the faculty at a University faculty meeting on Monday. As a result, the fall 2013 semester will now begin on the second Wednesday of September, rather than the second Thursday of September.

The changes to the calendar come after University President Shirley Tilghman asked Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin and Dean of the College Valerie Smith to engage students in conversation about the academic calendar last semester. According to a March 3 memo sent by Dobkin and Smith to the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy, Tilghman proposed to gauge student interest in canceling class on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break through student focus groups after 83 percent of respondents to the USG’s Academic Life Total Assessment survey for the 2011-12 academic year indicated that they supported the idea.

In the memo, Dobkin and Smith said they reviewed the findings of the 14 focus groups, which conducted their reviews in November and December. They concluded that students strongly supported adding a Wednesday to Thanksgiving break and making up the lost day by starting the fall 2013 semester one day earlier.

At the meeting, which lasted about 10 minutes, Tilghman invited Dobkin to explain the proposed changes to the calendar briefly.

In response to a faculty member’s question about how the proposed changes could affect freshmen, Smith said that the University would make the necessary adjustments to the preorientation and orientation schedules.

The changes to the academic calendar will allow students to attend classes that meet on Wednesday during the first week of the fall semester and will afford an extra day for Thanksgiving travel.

According to the USG’s Thanksgiving Focus Groups Report, students participating in the focus groups unanimously supported changing the first day of class and having Thanksgiving break begin on the Wednesday before. The report also found that students believe the calendar changes would result in a “more uniform policy” on class meetings. Previously, some faculty have taught on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, while others have canceled or rescheduled class.

Though the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy originally considered eliminating fall break in favor of a week-long Thanksgiving break, the USG report stated that the focus groups under its purview found students value fall break, both as a way to travel and engage in extracurricular activities as well as to relax and catch up on work after the stress of midterms.

The faculty also made nominations of members to various committees, who will be elected through electronic ballot to serve beginning in the fall.

Four professors were nominated to the Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal, which investigates faculty members accused of violating University policy. The nominees are civil and environmental engineering professor Catherine Peters, economics professor Harvey Rosen, assistant physics professor Thomas Gregor and assistant English professor Russell Leo.


7 thoughts on “NEWS: Faculty vote to approve changes to Thanksgiving break, fall semester

  1. “According to the USG’s Thanksgiving Focus Groups Report, students participating in the focus groups unanimously supported changing the first day of class and having Thanksgiving break begin on the Wednesday before.”

    Well that’s flat out wrong, because I participated in those focus groups and I did not support the change. Maybe focus groups overwhelmingly supported it, but I can promise you it wasn’t unanimous.

    Also, what does this mean for OA/CA/orientation week? Will trips go out on Saturday instead of Sunday, returning Thursday instead of Friday? Or will we just have orientation be one day shorter? Prince, these are important issues. You should investigate them.

  2. This is ridiculous. There’s well over 10% (internationals plus people that live too far from home plus new immigrants) of the school that can’t or doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. We ignore so many other national holidays, and now we have to start school earlier to take even more time off at a relatively inopportune moment. I guess I’ll spend more time hanging around campus.

    • Thanksgiving may seem like an “inopportune moment” to you, but Thanksgiving is an important holiday to many students on this campus, and this change allows me to actually spend thanksgiving with my family. Just because Thanksgiving doesn’t seem valuable to you, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable to others.

    • …which, if your statistics are correct, means that nearly 90% of the student body can and does celebrate Thanksgiving. You may be an international student, but you picked America off the menu when you matriculated. America comes with a side of Thanksgiving. Get over it.

    • Dude… it’s one day, and it makes a huge difference for people who travel for Thanksgiving (which is almost everyone at this school). I doubt it will really have any impact on your life.

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