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  Cornell University

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Office of the Dean

Calendar Meeting Minutes

First Meeting: October 24, 2016

Second Meeting: November 18, 2016

Third Meeting: December 6, 2016

Fourth Meeting: January 23, 2017

Fifth Meeting: January 30, 2017

Sixth Meeting: February 13, 2017

Seventh Meeting: February 24, 2017

Eighth Meeting: March 21, 2017

Ninth Meeting: April 5, 2017

Tenth Meeting: April 10, 2017

Eleventh Meeting: April 14, 2017

Twelfth Meeting: May 5, 2017

First Meeting: October 24, 2016

The meeting started with introductions.

The act of reviewing the charge brought up several additional  units that need to be consulted. These included  (a) the Judicial Administrator Office, (b) CURW, (c) Athletics, (d) fraternities and sororities, (e) continuing education, and (f) the orientation Steering Committee,

In order not to get sidetracked we should not get into scheduling issues associated with final exams. We CAN and should discuss things like the distribution of study days.

The 2014 Senior survey has a wealth of material that can assist in the evaluation of the current calendar. That cohort of students is able to assess its new features because they also lived under the old calendar. The first 24 pages of the document are “required reading” for the committee.

Moving slope day to the day after the last class and the constriction of senior week were hot issues for the last calendar committee and we need to understand how those changes played out.

We will reach out to the local school districts and explore how they establish their own calendars. In particular, we need a handle on just how much we can coordinate breaks. We will get residence  zipcode data for employees and faculty that will help us understand calendar impact.

We did a brief comparison of the Cornell academic calendar with some other peer institutions calendars such as Columbia, and Johns Hopkins. Cornell has a quite long exam period, but this is something we realize we can’t shorten due to many conflicts that may arise.

We talked about potentially reaching out to all DUSs to seek input.

Communication with the broad community was discussed. There will be an email address set up for comments. The website will have a more detailed and structured organization so that one can post comments on specific topics, e.g., How important is it to synchronize our calendar to the local school calendars?, How would a shortened between-semester break affect your travel plans? Etc.

We discussed but did not reach any conclusion on (a) the value of staging a survey and (b) the value of staging a town hall.

Second Meeting: November 18, 2016

Outreach update. Every student, every Director of Undergraduate Studies, every Dean, and every Department Chair has received an email from us indicating that they can share their calendar-related thoughts on the website or by email to In addition, we have similarly contacted all the Cornell offices that are listed here.

The main topic of conversation at the meeting concerned the positioning of the breaks during the spring semester. We talked a lot about several  spring-options. Here are some of the driving questions:

  1. From the “stress” point of view, do we need two breaks?
  2. Is the prelim schedule so structured that it should affect when the break(s) occur?
  3. Suppose we go with a single one-week break. Where should it be placed and what happens to the 2 February break days “show up”?
  4. If we keep the two breaks, how do we simultaneously address Feb-break-too-early complaint and the spring-break-too-late complaint? Have the one week break come before the 2-day break?
  5. How important is it to coordinate with the local school districts and exactly how do we do it?

Reverting to a single-break spring semester appears to be a non starter.

There is a debate about whether the full week break (called “Spring Break”) should be interchanged with the 2-day break (currently called “Winter Break”). That alternative led to a discussion about how students “use” breaks.

Regarding prelim patterns, we need data on the evening prelim schedule and an understanding about just how “big” that stressor is compared to the total prelim schedule.

It was observed that a “Committee on Stress” would not spend nearly as much time on the academic calendar as the Academic Calendar Committee is spending on stress!

Regarding overlap of our breaks with local school breaks, it seems unlikely that no matter what we do, at most two of our 7 break days can coincide with the 10 break days that the local schools have during the spring. While the first local school break is pegged to Presidents Day, the second local school break moves around a bit. We have to understand that.

Everything is coupled, so while the next meeting will focus on end-of-term activity (exams, study days, slope day, senior “week”, etc)  those topics did come up along with everything else!

Third Meeting: December 6, 2016

Broad agreement that final exam dates be made available before classes start or even at preregistration (if possible) .

Break placement in the spring. Synching up with the prelim cycle is important. If we continue with a two-break spring, should the longer one come first?

Fractional weeks are not syllabus-friendly to many faculty and it is unclear what a 2-day break does for a student who cannot afford to travel.

A compressed final exam period would create an opportunity to make two major improvements to the fall semester calendar. We could start later in August (resonates with both students and faculty with school age children) and we could have a one-week Thanksgiving break. There is extreme enthusiasm for the latter in the online comments–for both travel and academic reasons. The two class days  before Thanksgiving and the five class days after Thanksgiving are devalued. If we go o a one-week break then we need more stuff after the break, i.e., two weeks of class.

Reducing the number of exam days from 8 (very  high compared to our peers) to a more typical exam period with  6 final exam days. This requires a major rethink of study days and how we use the last week of class.

We have to assimilate the 1000 posted comments and come up with a late-January “half time report”. The community has to now join us in thinking about the competing demands and tradeoffs.

Fourth Meeting: January 23, 2017

We reviewed all the semester calendar frameworks.

The single-break spring calendar S3 is off the table because we cannot go back to a 5-day senior week.

A new Spring calendar (the new S3) was proposed and will be reviewed at the next meeting.

A new Fall calendar (F3) that features a 5-day Thanksgiving break AND a 2- day fall break will be added to the repertoire.

Agreement that we will recommend  “day redefinition” as a way to achieve weekday balance.

Need to float full-year academic calendars during the second round of comments.

We will hold a town hall around March 1, the midpoint of the one-month comment period.

Still thinking about doing a qualtrics survey.

Have to keep the Berkeley study/class day idea alive. But it seems that it would be a major challenge to get faculty buy-in.

Fifth Meeting: January 30, 2017

We discussed the website and how to make things clear for the second round of comments.

Sixth Meeting: February 13, 2017

We reduced the number of fall calendars under consideration from 3 to 2. We discussed the “end game”, i.e., how things should wrap up in the Senate and the other assemblies. We agreed that it is a good idea to send the qualtrics survey to alums who graduated within the last ten years.


Seventh Meeting: February 24, 2017

We group-edited the summary slide show. Discussed what the six calendars would look like with a 12-day study/exam period. We continued the discussion of Senior week–the upsides and downsides associated with making it longer.

Eighth Meeting: March 20, 2017

We talked about the survey results and how we could reconcile competing interests. After much discussion we are looking into two new frameworks which we are calling  F and S .

Some features of F:

  1. Intelligent 4-day orientation
  2. Two fewer August child care days
  3. Seven class days after thanksgiving
  4. Whole weeks = 11  (Current = 11)
  5. Last exam range: Dec 16-Dec 22
  6. Four study days, seven exam days
  7. Class Days = 69  (Current = 68))
  8. Weekday Balance: 13-14-14-14-14

Some features of F:

  1. Class days: 69 or 70  (Current = 69)
  2. February break still on Presidents day, but preceded by 21 or 22 classdays (current = 18)
  3. Whole weeks: 12 or 13 (Current = 12)
  4. Weekday Balance: 13-13-14-15-15   or 12-13-14-15-15 (First ThF becomes MTu)
  5. Last Exam Range:May  13 – May 19
  6. Four Study days and eight exam days.
  7. Friday slope day
  8. 10 days between last exam and commencement  (Current = 4)

Some features of F and S together:

  1. Between semester break: 25 or 32 days  (Current is 33 or 40 days)
  2. Summer:  97 or 104 days (Current is about  90 or 96 days.)

period. We continued the discussion of Senior week–the upsides and downsides associated with making it longer.

Ninth Meeting: April 5, 2017

Six of us met  (Tom, Rob, Betsy, Mary Beth, Connie and Becky) to discuss the “early calendars” Early1 and Early2 and the “late calendars” Late1 and Late2.  Some background.

Here is where we landed:

We recommend going with Early 2 and Late 2 as the basic frameworks, but…

We recommend proposing a single solution to the issue of study days and exam days that would be consistent for fall and spring across both Early 2 and Late 2.

From a calendar process point of view, this means that students and faculty would not be reacting to variations on issue instead of the more fundamental issues related to the calendar.

It would also standardize the systems and rhythms of exams for both semesters, for all stakeholders (regardless of early vs. late options)

Elongating the study days/exam days in Late 2 (=S4) does not really solve anything, because students start “senior days” events on the weekend of study days.

We recommend that this single solution be 3 study days followed by 7 exam days.

It was noted that it might be clearer to say 3.5 study days and 6.5 exam days, if the first exam day is has fewer exam slots.

The compelling advantage of the 3 + 7 formula is that is makes our fall calendar option (which is the same across Early 1 and Late 1) more palatable, by scooching the final exam day one day earlier vis a vis Christmas.

We have several unresolved issues that require further discussions:

How best to deal with “senior day” issues of Late 2.  A meeting is already planned to discuss this with VP Ryan Lombardi and DOS Vijay Pendakur and student leaders

If we go with Late 2, the question was raised of whether we should move commencement earlier by moving it to a weekday.  Pros and cons were vigorously discussed.  We decided to park this issue, but did not rule it out.  Harvard, Penn and Johns Hopkins have weekday commencements.

If any change is made to commencement (e.g. Early 2), Connie is concerned that we give her office and others enough time to deal with all the town gown issues, and parent planning issues.  Once freshmen enroll, parents already start making hotel reservations for commencement.

Tenth Meeting: April 10, 2017

We continued the discussion from the previous meeting. It was decided that a weekday commencement, although an interesting idea, was not practical. It would make it more costly and complicated for families to attend.

We spent time on how to “poll” the assemblies. There will be three whole-year calendars on the table: the current calendar, an early graduation calendar, and a late graduation calendar. Consensus is that assembly folks  should be asked to provide a ranking. The details will be worked out remembering that the voting outcomes are to provide information to the Provost. So the “ballot” must be carefully designed with that in mind.

Regarding the early-graduation calendar (called Early), there is not much enthusiasm. But we all agree that it is close to the best possible calendar with a 2-week-earlier commencement.

Regarding the late-graduation calendar we agree on everything except the order of the two breaks in the spring semester. There is broad support for the short-break-first calendar (called Late). But there is also support for the short-break-second calendar (called Late_Flipped). The Committee will have to decide by voting which alternative is advanced.

To appreciate the alternatives, here is a side-by-side comparison  of the Current,  Late, Late_Flipped, and Early calendars.

Eleventh Meeting: April 14, 2017

A rough draft of  the Final Report was circulated and a measure of group editing took place. The ordering ballot was discussed. Most happy with long orientation and expanded “senior days” period.

Twelfth Meeting: May 5, 2017

We went around the table and everybody articulated their personal ranking of the three calendars. We agreed that THE final report should include the voting  results for each of the assemblies. Lastly we talked about topics for next year’s “New Calendar Implementation Committee.” Here is a rough agenda for that committee (and its subcommittees):

  1. Orientation Subcommittee. How to spend the extra days in the expanded August orientation period. The January orientation period and transfer students should be part of the conversation.
  2. Student Stress Subcommittee. Make clear that the calendar itself does little to solve stress problems. Highlight that  what goes on in the classroom  is the determining factor.
  3. The Make-Up Exam Subcommittee. Make recommendations associated with scheduling, administration, content, and grading.
  4. The Term Wrap-Up Committee. Make recommendations as to how students and faculty should approach the last seven class days of the term. Scheduling big end-of-term projects and papers.
  5. The “Senior Days” Subcommittee. Look into timing and how it should be supervised.
  6. The Breaks Subcommittee. Revisit the “no sudden work” policy. Can we  influence where the public schools place their spring break?

Last Updated: June 3, 2017 at 9:20 am