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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

April Survey

We formulated  two possible Fall calendars (F1, F2)  and four possible Spring calendars (S1, S2, S3,S4) :

  Summary  Shows all the options and issues for the busy reader.
  Fall Calendar F1  2-day Fall break, 3-day Thanksgiving break followed by 9 class days.
  Fall Calendar F2  2-day Fall break, a 5-day Thanksgiving break followed by 9 class days.
  Spring Calendar S1  February break delayed by one week.
  Spring Calendar S2  The February and Spring break are reversed in order and repositioned.
  Spring Calendar S3  Commencement is two weeks earlier. February and spring break remain.
  Spring Calendar S4  Commencement is two weeks earlier. February break is cancelled.
  Study/Exam Periods  Learn more about study days, exam days, and exam slots.


  1. I am presently setting up a course with help from the International Affairs and Cornell Abroad. Part of the course will involve a two-week trip over the Winter Break which would be affected by the S3 proposal. Winter and Spring breaks allow for field trips to be incorporated into standard courses as part of the scholastic year (no extra tuition fees).

    1. What about S4?

  2. I believe that F1 and S4 are the most equitable options. They both give 6 days of break throughout both semesters. The balance this creates does not confuse the students to make one semester “longer” than another. Since I was a transfer student, during my freshman year I operated on this type of schedule. I prefer this calendar option to the one that Cornell currently uses. The length of Winter break is too long and could be shortened. This shortening of the break helps in May when we are looking for internships. Many other schools have an advantage when they get out earlier because their students can begin working before ours. This schedule keeps us synchronized with peer institutions and allows students from the same family to visit with each other during break. I believe that the February serves a place in the current calendar. However, if the calendar were to switch to S4 with a shorter winter break, and earlier end to the spring semester it will render itself useless. In my opinion the balance of breaks across these two options are the best academic planning options for the university.

  3. F2 and S4 are definitely the best choices. F2 allows those who live in the South, Midwest, and the West to return home for a meaningful period of time and reduce travel costs because there is more time to get home and return. It also allows students a few more days to relax with family after summer internships. S4 gives Cornell a relevant spring break that is shared with other schools, opens up additional internship opportunities (Southwest Airlines for example), and shortens the long and boring winter break. The only downside of S4 is that we have MLK day off. While a very meaningful and important day, it is not necessary to have it off because it is right after classes begin. It would be better to have President’s Day off instead. This will also align with ICSD. These calendars will greatly benefit the university and improve the quality of life of nearly all students.

    1. I concur with this post; F2 and S4 are best for the reasons stated.

      Annalisa L. Raymer

  4. One of Cornell’s goals is to expand the international experiences and opportunities for students. A large percentage of these opportunities happen during the January break. Options S3 and S4 eliminate the possibility of taking students to any place meaningful because of the short duration of the break. Spring Break is equally short. If either S3 or S4 are adopted, then many courses with study trips in January will have to be eliminated. I am strongly opposed to either of these two options. The other fall and spring options impact the learning opportunities less.

    1. I completely agree with this comment. If we are really committed to providing students with international experiences, then we cannot adopt either S3 or S4. These options would make it impossible to offer courses with a study abroad component in January.

  5. S1 is the best option because it leaves Spring break later in the semester. Moving Spring break forward to early March risks a greater chance of weather delays in travel leaving and returning to Ithaca. Cornell might need to be prepared to house and feed students for a day or more should we get a traditional March storm as break begins and the roads and airports are hazardous or delayed respectively.

    1. I agree that S1 is preferable to S2 for this reason (less risk of weather-related travel delays). However, I would also add that both S1 and S2 are strongly preferable to S3 and S4, both of which would shrink the winter break in ways that would be highly detrimental to faculty research, writing, and conference travel.

      1. I agree that the S1 and S2 options are preferable to S3 and S4 for the reasons stated. I have a preference for S2 because it moves spring break earlier and gets rid of February break (which is really not necessary). I would not necessarily prioritize weather-related travel issues as a way to design the academic calendar as this is upstate NY and snow in early April can be just as likely as in March.

  6. As someone how teaches a lot of classes, I have always felt that long vacations close to the end of the semester is really detrimental for the students. The end of the semester comes just as they are getting back into gear. Thus I would not support the F2 calendar. I am not in favor of either F3 or F4, but that is purely personal – I like the long holiday break. I like both S1 and S2 and do not see a lot to distinguish them other than how moving the long break to earlier in the semester will impact on students’ break planning.

    1. Clearly studying would be part of the F2 thanksgiving break?

      1. Many students leave early for Thanksgiving already, adding stress to any already stressful time of the year. I think the 5 day break and extended classes post-break would do a nice job of spreading the stress out for our students.

      2. It should not: “Faculty are urged to regard the breaks as a time for rest, not an opportunity for extended work,” said Dean of the University Faculty William Fry. (

  7. F1 is the only option that takes into account the work-life balance of parents of school age children. All of the spring options other than S3 will be tough on families. Early start dates are also tough because of many federal grant deadlines, but I supposed we will get used to them, and if that is what it takes to keep schedules more closely aligned with the public schools then it seems a reasonable compromise.

    1. The F2 orientation setup is much better for several reasons. How does that figure in your assessment?

    2. Managing work-life balance for faculty parents is an enormous challenge that can span a decade or two of a career. Responding to this need can buy long-term allegiance from the affected faculty; a failure to so makes their lives even harder, and sends a message that Cornell doesn’t care.

      1. As a member of a dual-career academic couple and parent of 1 school-age child and a second who will enter the school system in a couple of years, the alignment of breaks with local school breaks is a critical issue. Moving around the February break so that it no longer aligns with the February school break is a tremendous burden to working parents. I would like to see some effort to align both breaks with school breaks, but that doesn’t seem to be on the table. Two working parents is becoming the norm (maybe it already is), not the exception, and I would like to see Cornell support families with these scheduling policies.

  8. S3 and S4 really hurt the winter break. This is the *only* time in the academic year when faculty can travel for talks, panels, meetings. It is also a very busy period for grant proposals and conference deadlines. Please do not shorten the winter break, at least not by starting the spring semester earlier. If this is to move the end of the semester earlier, eliminate the two days of the short spring break. They come a couple of weeks from the real spring break and Spring already has several federal holidays, adding 1-2 extra days to that does not make a world of a difference. For the fall semester, either F1 or F2 is fine.

    1. I could not agree more with this assessment and beg the committee not to implement scenario S3 or S4. The material effects on faculty members who need a winter break of the current length for some of our most vital work (research, writing, conference travel, grant and fellowship applications, etcetera) would be catastrophic–and the effect on our morale would be equally disastrous. Please do not make a move that does not account for our needs.

      1. I too am really concerned that S3 and S4 really hurt the winter break. This is an important time for preparation for the spring semester and, for international people like me, traveling to visit family who are far away.

        Rajesh Bhaskaran

    2. 100% cosign to the comment of Feb. 28 11:47 am. The long winter break is absolutely essential for faculty research, writing, and conference travel. Either S1 or S2 would be fine, but implementing either S3 or S4 would lead to an immediate and significant drop in faculty research productivity. This consideration is especially important for faculty in the humanities, whose research output depends not on collaboration with graduate students in a lab setting, but on individual research and writing. Currently, the winter break is just long enough for us to get some serious writing done. Losing 1-2 weeks of that time would be devastating.

    3. I agree with this. Shortening winter break would significantly impact experiential learning experiences for students. The ESS curriculum has a required course in Washington, DC (Environmental Policy Processes) that occurs over winter break. There are also many global service-learning trips that take place during the 3-weeks of winter break. With S3 and S4, these opportunities would no longer be available to students. It also hurts international students and those that travel long distances to see family. Shortening the between semester break is also tough on faculty that write grants (often due at the beginning of the year) and teach (as class prep would have to be done during the holidays).

  9. Starting the spring semester earlier (S3 S4) is not a great idea for those of us interested in teaching during the winter session, or taking students on international trips. It is also hard on students. My son was at university in Canada, and his holiday/semester break was short. He did not have
    a chance to relax, get healthy, etc. It was a sprint from Sept-April..

    1. I like the F2 and S1.

      F2 allows for more opportunities for traveling during such an important holiday for folks and more downtime for students. To me, 5 days during Thanksgiving break is similar to 5 days during spring break but just later in the semester.

      Allows for february break to be later in the semester, when for the last couple of years it has just been way too early. S3 and S4 take away from winter abroad or winter session opportunities.

  10. I can see from the other posts that my preference for F2 is in the minority. However I believe that fall semester is enhanced by a long Thanksgiving break if followed by a significant number of class days to recoup/reiterate learning. Fall semester tends to wear down my students, perhaps because the sun is in hiding, there is no summer break to look forward to, and it’s the first (potentially anxious) semester for first year students. Hence a week of rest is in order, and the final 9 days of classes should be sufficient to consolidate a semester of learning. Brown et al. (Make it stick: the science of successful learning) argue that learning is enhanced by down time when followed by learning exercises that recall and reiterate the material. So I view the full week, F2 Thanksgiving vacation/9 final days of classes as a positive learning opportunity. Tom Hirschl

    1. I absolutely agree with the minority view that F2 is the preferred fall schedule. Orientation during weekdays is much better for individual programs, the longer Thanksgiving break is more realistic, and having more teaching days after Thanksgiving will be an improvement. None of the S options are good in my view. How about an option that starts Spring term only a couple of days earlier, eliminates February break (and moves Spring break back into March), but does not push the end of term back by two weeks?

      1. I agree with you: combining F2 and a spring schedule that you proposed.

  11. Internal transfer decisions for Spring are given in January, after final grades for the Fall are posted, and the internal transfer committee for each college has met. It is a very short period for students as it is–they find out if they’re accepted into a new college/school some 10 days before classes begin. This decision affects what courses they enroll in. If classes began Jan 8 I don’t even know if the results would be out yet. –F. Ardon

  12. It sounds like F2 would extend the semester, by adding orientation days up front and class days to the back end of the current calendar (otherwise how does it address the issue of improving orientation?). That seems to work against the issue of maximizing the ability of faculty and/or students to take advantage of the summer and winter breaks to travel, work, write grants, etc. F1 therefore seems preferable.

    1. Orientation days that are week days are generally much preferred by the faculty and staff who run them. The way it is now that single Monday is overloaded with grad orientation and freshman advising. And other important activities. We should pay as much attention to how the semester starts as we do to how it ends.

  13. F1 is certainly preferable as I see no pedagogical reason for a week long break at Thanksgiving. If anything, such a long break will cause students to lose focus just as they need to really be getting traction ideas and semester ending projects.

    S4 is also I think preferable as our winter break is much too long. Too few students take advantage of winter session opportunities to make that a reason to retain this distended holiday and project the semester into May. It would be far better to extend the summer and give students sufficient time then to both participate in off campus opportunities and, as most need to do, earn some money to help pay for their education.

  14. I am strongly opposed to S3 and S4, as shortening the January break is extremely detrimental to those of us who do fieldwork abroad. Winter is the preferable season for a lot of fieldwork in the tropics and some of us do research on the other side of the world, making trips of less than 3 weeks impractical. We also can’t necessarily miss holidays with family, so that means we aren’t back in Ithaca until Jan 18 at the earliest. Shortening winter break would completely cut us off from this fieldwork season, as well as opportunities to take students abroad for winter session trips. It also happens to be a fairly miserable time to be in Ithaca (for those who suffer from seasonal depression) and it no doubt increases heating bills to spend more of January on campus. I beg the committee not to change the calendar to S3 or S4. The other spring options are good.

  15. S1 and S2 are OK, with slight preference for S1 even over the current schedule. But I strongly oppose S3 and S4, for its negative impacts on students and faculty. Shortening winter break interferes with students’ ability to do winter-internships and take winter study-courses, and seniors’ chance to return to campus early to work intensively on their thesis research. Shortening winter-break also negatively impacts faculty research, as well as taking away time needed to fully prepare spring courses after having having just completed winter courses, grading, etc. especially in light of early-January grant-deadlines, and time needed for research especially off-campus fieldwork and the like.

    1. The number of students that do winter internships is very small and almost nonexistent. S3 and S4 allows students to have MORE summer internship opportunities.

      1. To the comment of March 3, 10:27 pm: that may be, but the long winter break is absolutely essential to faculty research. This is particularly true for faculty in the humanities (for whom the winter break is an important time for writing) and for faculty whose research is based on fieldwork (which, in some world regions, has to take place over the winter break rather than the summer break because of climate or other reasons).

      2. I am not sure it is an accurate statement to say that the number of students that do winter internships is “few or nonexistent.” They are scores of students that participate in winter session courses that the university offers and also global service-learning and experiential learning. S3 and S4 run counter to the Engaged Cornell and Global Cornell initiatives. The S3 and S4 options would restrict international fieldwork for (teaching) faculty to only summers and also cut off international learning experiences for students during winter session.

  16. The Colleges complete an academic grade review after final grades are posted to determine academic actions and student’s eligibility to return for the following semester. In Spring, this often occurs the 2nd week in January. It would be difficult to have classes start and have some students learn they have been suspended after they have returned to campus in the S3 and S4 proposals. L. Ryan

  17. I prefer F1 and S4. I think postponing the start of the Fall semester, and moving up the start of the Spring semester is a good idea. I’ve talked to ~20 students at the beginning of this semester (partly because I’m a faculty fellow for one of the dorms), and universally all the students said their winter break was too long. They all feel that shortening it be 1-2 weeks will be fine. In general, only a small minority of the students take advantage of the teaching offering during the winter semester.

  18. I strongly oppose calendars S3 and S4. The main argument in favor of those is “our winter break is longer than our peers’ “. Well our winter itself is also much longer and harder than on most other campuses. Ithaca starts becoming nice around early May – so we are trading two weeks of the best experience for our students for two very tough January weeks – surely will strongly decrease the overall well-being of the student body, and lead to more depression. In addition, a longer January break is also essential for faculty: this is a period when one can actually get research done, get some travel in to visit colleagues give talks or attend conferences. The summer break is long enough with three full months – I don’t see how one can argue for almost 4 months of uninterrupted summer break. Those wishing a 4 months break should watch for 8 month salaries being instituted by the University!

    1. It was not so bad of a winter for the past two winters. I’m an upstate NY resident. And if climate change or global warming is real, then we won’t have to worry about the winters being so harsh. Plus, it was in the 60s last week.

    2. To add on to what the earlier person said, if working too much in the winter causes depression in students, shouldn’t we have no winter break at all so that students can get over that before getting real jobs?

      1. Reply #2 makes no sense whatsoever (if it was meant to be serious – if not please don’t joke around with this, student depression is a very serious issue).

        As for Reply #1: even though we did have a few warm days this year, even in an exceptionally warm winter like this one the majority of winter days are gray and dark, while those in May are usually bright and sunny, with the whole campus flowering. And of course all of us are residents of Upstate NY and have spent many winters here.

      2. Cornell has worked toward creating a culture that allows students to thrive. Student depression is very real and should not be underestimated. This comment shows that there is the need to increase awareness among faculty and staff of how to deal with mental health issues. “Notice and Respond” is a very good workshop that hopefulky more people can participate in, soon.

  19. I am very much opposed to S3 and S4. This is an important time for faculty to meet up with collaborators, attend conferences, etc.

  20. F2 is a good proposal IMO; I would add one more day of instruction after T’giving for a total of 10 instruction days before finals. The two days before T’giving are not useful class time; the longer T’giving break facilitates distant travel for west coast and international students and allows a lot more flexibility scheduling flights.

    Spring: S3 and S4 are ABSOLUTE UGHs! PLEASE DO NOT IMPLEMENT EITHER! Losing the January weeks would create a real hardship at the vet college. A number of vet faculty and students use the long winter break for international work and / or international classes or volunteer experiences. Other students use the time for externship opportunities. We also have 2 weeks of surgery courses scheduled in that time frame that can’t be scheduled elsewhere in the calendar. If we lose the January weeks we will have to drop those courses. Please no S3 or S4! What about an S2 with no Feb break?

  21. Fall: I prefer F1. A week-long family visit doesn’t seem necessary just before the winter break. Also, according to colleagues elsewhere who have a week-long Thanksgiving break, in that scenario students are likely to take off the previous Thursday or Friday so lectures will still be missed.

    Spring: I am very strongly against S3. From a student point of view, it would mean losing the nicest weeks of the Ithaca year, in exchange for the worst. The lost weeks in January are also a big advantage for faculty research activities (conferences, etc.)

    1. I agree with the comment of March 2, 3:51 pm, on F1 vs. F2. I understand the concern that students are currently taking off extra days before the Thanksgiving break anyway – but I think the previous commenter is quite right that they will do this anyway, no matter how much we extend the break.

  22. A few things the committee could keep in mind when shaping alternate options:

    -Although Cornell is non-sectarian, avoiding Orientation activities over the weekend allows students and faculty who observe the Sabbath in various faith traditions to do so without missing often mandatory activities when the importance of a uniform onboarding experience is critical.
    -While F1 is a great option acceding to many students’ requests for a week-long Thanksgiving break, a Thursday start for classes seems to encourage students extending the summer break and not returning for courses until the following week. If there is a way to accomplish a week-long Thanksgiving break (or an earlier spring break) and still start class on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, that would greatly reduce the incentive to miss classes at the beginning of the term.
    -For students enrolled in joint-degree programs, uniform break periods across the University are ideal to allow all students to have a true break. To that point, the late March/early April break only works for students enrolled in the degree programs (mostly undergrad) that also have the February break. With the late January start of classes, the February break is not as necessary as it may have been in the past. A break closer to the mid-point of the term would be more conducive to student wellbeing (including stress reduction).
    -With the number of higher ed institutions in this small region and the relatively low number of available hotel rooms compared to expected guest counts, the options to accelerate the Commencement date may be logistically unfeasible. An alternative could be to stagger Commencement so that there are 2 dates with one wave of degree programs finishing in late April/first weekend of May and the other degree programs finishing the second or third weekend of May, which achieves the goal of avoiding the Memorial Day holiday and extending the summer break. It may also create the possibility of Spring Intersession courses or programming before the Summer term begins which could offset the loss of a week of the Winter Session if something akin to S4, which seems optimal, is adopted.

  23. S3 and S4 are really not good and should be avoided. We need a long winter break. Making the summer break longer is much less important then keeping the winter break. In fact, I feel that what we have now is much better than any alternative.

    1. So denying students internships at companies such as Southwest Airlines that start while we still have finals is a good thing? WRONG

      1. So denying student winter internship is good? There is a balance, and I feel that what we have now is better

  24. The fall semester is fine starting when it does. The weather is better in the summer, and people would rather go home for winter break earlier and go back to school in the fall earlier.

  25. F2 is not a viable option. A 5 day thanksgiving break creates difficult travel plans for long distance students: it is expensive to travel but that is a long period to go home with a friend.

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