Comments on the Three Options

Our work is summarized in a report and a “quick overview” slide show:

Final Report


Three calendars are under consideration:

the Current calendar framework

the Modified Current calendar framework

the Early Commencement  calendar framework

You can also view the three alternatives  side-by-side.

Here is the new-calendar adoption timeline:

  1. The Senate and the Assemblies discuss the report in April.
  2. The Senate and the Assemblies vote on the options in May using a 1-2-3 ranking ballot.
  3. The voting outcomes are reported to the Provost who makes the final decision.
  4. AY 2017-18 is spent “getting ready” for the new calendar.
  5. The new calendar starts AY 2018-19


Leave comments below or email the Committee.



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37 thoughts on “Comments on the Three Options

  1. After thinking about this for quite a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would vote in favor of the more radical change for an early commencement for a few reasons::

    1) It gives our students a chance to have longer, and therefore more meaningful, summer internship opportunities. Relative to the loss of that time for a longer winter opportunity, gaining that time in the summer is more valuable since there is very little that our students can do over the winter session anyway. The increase in work time would also give our undergraduates more time to earn money towards their student contribution to financial aid.

    2) I love the idea of having over three full months in the summer to focus on my research and writing. Currently, with a busy professional conference schedule in August that occurs annually, I feel that I only have a two month summer. By the time I finish writing annual reports and tying up other loose ends from the academic year, it feels considerably shorter than two months.

    3) I currently teach a course for which I take students to Nicaragua during the second week of January. Although this calendar change would mean that I end up with very little personal time during the break, we would still be able to take the trip. Because ICSD schools start back up so early in January anyway, the extra time is not very useful for family travel anyway.

    I would of course love it if Cornell’s spring break could overlap with the ICSD spring break regularly, but I’ve come to accept that this is not possible.

    Thanks to the committee for their very hard work on this – excellent job!!

    ~ Lisa Nishii

  2. The Early Commencement calendar allows students to take longer summer externships, avoids the Memorial Day holiday, and adjusts the mid semester break to a more reasonable time period for students to recover from their first round of prelims. With secondary school breaks at different times around the community, there is no “best” time for a spring break; this model gets rid of the unnecessary Feb. break and puts our Dec/Jan break more in line with other colleges. This model has more impact but would be a huge win for the University.

  3. I would like the committee to seriously discuss the possibility of moving the spring break for 2018 by one week so as to coincide with the Ithaca school district break. This year the Ithaca break was way too late and there was really no way to synchronize. However, it turns out next year the Ithaca break is one week BEFORE the planned Cornell break. In fact from the point of view of academics this is probably the idea time for the Cornell break as well, the current one comes too late. In addition, we have probably many hundreds of colleagues and staff members who will be extremely unhappy for having a one week mismatch between the breaks. I do not see why this much ahead of time (almost a whole year) it would be very disruptive to change this aspect of the calendar. I could not think of a single event that is already firmly planned and would be tied to the exact week of the spring break week (except for dragon day). I urge the committee to seriously consider this or give a clear explanation why it is impossible at this point.

  4. For students interested in careers in the IT sector it’s becoming an expectation that you would have done an internship in one of the top computer-sector companies, like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. They give out summer internships with a *requirement* that they start on a particular day. That day is set based on the typical academic calendar of other universities and causes no problems for them. Cornell students, however, routinely face conflicts with our final exam timetable. I don’t know whether other sectors have similar stories, but given the massive number of students now majoring in CS, not to mention related fields like ECE and IS, even if it’s limited just to students seeking careers in IT the final exam timetable is having a major impact on a nontrivial number of Cornell undergrads.

    1. These are excellent points. Out of curiosity how does MIT (last exam this year = May 26 ) and Princeton (last exam this year = May 26) handle the blocked summertime opportunity problem? They run outstanding undergraduate CS majors as do we. If they have a workaround then what is it and why can’t we adopt it? Note: If we had the Modified Current Calendar in place this year, then our last exam day would be May 20.


    2. I am a Cornell alum, and am currently full time software engineer at Facebook. What you wrote is simply not true. Interns have many possible starting dates to choose from throughout the summer.

    3. My daughter (Cornell CS major) was an intern the last three summers at Facebook, Google and Apple. She did not have any problems with internship starting dates or duration. There were new interns arriving every week, and 12-13 weeks is what was expected.

    4. In informal discussions of the calendar proposals, the issue of internships that you bring up is the principal motivation for shifting semester time from the summer to the winter. It’s a pity that nobody has taken up the task of stating the argument in public, and assessing how strong it is. Based on discussing it with students I interact with, it has validity, but is also overstated. As much as the start times, the problem is that that someone who takes a long internship has very little summer break. Ultimately this is a matter of choice—and keep in mind that a string of internships in an environment where most people have the same thing is not going to make you stand out. Also, while I’m happy that CS is booming again, the expectation that the whole university should be reconfigured on that basis is a bit much.

  5. In the class I’m teaching right now, the late start to the summer (and the short summer length) has seriously disrupted our final exam, which was scheduled on May 23. Of the 59 people still in the course, 10 have conflicts with internships that can’t be moved later—at least not without missing the first week of classes in the fall. I have been forced to make special arrangements for an early final for this portion of the class. I support a longer summer break at the expense of a shorter winter break.

  6. An additional issue argument for starting summer break earlier: as it stands, it seems that academic activities like final exams are being held past the funding period for spring-semester teaching assistants.

    It seems like we shouldn’t have such activities scheduled for a time when our TAs aren’t actually being paid?

  7. I am a faculty member who has noted that the late exam period causes difficulties for exam scheduling due to pre-existing summer responsibilities that students have.

    Here are some selected student situations that have come up this spring and last spring:

    This spring:
    “In early May (5/17) I am required for ROTC to go to CORTRAMID” .

    Last spring:

    “MAY 17th from 7:00 to 9:30 pm, which is the absolute latest I can take any final exam before reporting to San Diego for active duty summer training with the United States Navy. … I will be leaving on May 18th at 4:00 am to go to the Ithaca Airport. I am leaving to report to San Diego, California as ordered for my active duty summer training with the United States Navy. I do not leave San Diego until June 18th, and I will be heading straight to my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I cannot take a supervised exam while in San Diego (according to my ROTC academic advisor). …. As proof of my departure, I emailed my flight information to this email address last week. Just in case, the same flight itinerary is attached to this email as well. …. cc: Lieutenant Marijke de Jongh (Naval ROTC academic adviser)”

    “Saturday May 21 is the latest I can possibly take the exam, because my internship starts Monday so I’m leaving sunday.”

    “Dates for travel May 18th through may 23rd. Traveling with school engineering project team – will bein California for those dates, unable to take test remotely (if that were an option at all).”

    1. Thanks for the examples. With the Modified calendar exams end 3 days earlier and ON a weekend. So that might solve some of these problems.


  8. It seemed clear from the faculty senate meeting that the spring calendar would be best served by moving commencement to just one week earlier — but that’s the one option unavailable due to the conflict with Ithaca College.

    So I have a silly question: has anyone ever checked with Ithaca College as to whether they’ve considered changing calendar? Perhaps they’ve long coveted the memorial day weekend but haven’t considered it an option due to Cornell’s precedence that weekend. But in the unlikely event that were the case, both institutions would be missing a gigantic opportunity …

    1. We called them in September about this. They are not interested. BTW, the weekend before Mem Day is the primo commencement weekend when you look around the country. So nice try with your “coveted mem day weekend pitch!”

  9. The Early Commencement calendar would have negative effects on faculty research and student well-being. Faculty needs the longer break to be able to do something substantial in between the semesters. Students should be on campus rather in May than in January (the early calendar essentially trades a week or 10 days in May for the same amount in January), which will lead to less depression. An extra week in the summer is much less important from many aspects than the extra week free of duties in January. Thus I strongly object to the early commencement calendar. Both of the other two are acceptable to me.

  10. Many faculty are supported on sponsored projects during the last two weeks in May. During this time they are supposed to only be working on the sponsored project and, in fact, are required to sign forms to that effect. Having teaching duties during this period is a recipe for getting in trouble with sponsors.

    1. Please look at the 10-year table on page ten of the final report. With the modified calendar, summer length is either 95 days or 102 days. Three months is less than 95 days. So doesn’t the modified give you enough time to keep the funding agencies happy? FYI: Lenth of summer = number of days between last final exam day in may and first class day in august.


  11. The early commencement calendar has so many problems, would require so many changes to how we do business, and would create so many logistical issues, that it seems highly unlikely to be adopted.

    The Modified calendar is a significant improvement over the current calendar. However:

    1. Do we really need two breaks? Roughly half of students who left comments indicated they’d like a mid-march break that was synced with other schools. The other half indicated they liked a non-synced break for better weather and lower airfares.

    2. Since student workloads and stress are concentrated in the last 2/3 of the semester, should the short break be in mid-April instead of February? Or should the short break be delayed one more week?

    3. In roughly half of the next 10 years, students will have only 13 weeks of summer , compared with 14 in other years. Exams will end after May 15, when all faculty and TA appointments end., and as late as May 22. This is because Memorial Day/Graduation fixes the start and end of the calendar. Why can’t we always start the day after MLK day? Would a two-week break between end of exams and graduation be unmanageable?

    4. Can we mandate reduced non-instructional faculty activities (e.g., meetings, seminars) during major ICSD breaks, so that faculty with families can enjoy them? Can anything similar be done for our staff with families?

    1. We looked at all these things.

      I can answer your questions by working backwards from the Memorial Day Weekend commencement. A calendar with more Senior Days than what we have in the Modified Calendar would probably be nixed by the administration. If you throw away Feb break then we will have a longer dec/jan break and we feel it is plenty long enough now.

      Your point 4 is a good one. Something I would be happy to work on with you during 2017-18 while we get ready for the new calendar.

      We talked a LOT about the positioning and order of the spring breaks, I am old school and would like to do away with both the Fall and spring breaks! However, I am happy to be relaxed about having these breaks since students care so much about them and we are asking them to buy into a compressed exam period in return.


  12. The two day week (May 7 and 8) at the end of the Modified Current Calendar is awkward. For example, I teach a project course that can just fit all the final presentations into three days, but would have difficulties with the proposed calendar.

    1. Please elaborate. The modified spring term has the same length (69 days) as the current spring term. And there is a better weekday balance than with the current calendar.

      I am very interested in this because I think we can have more graceful term endings with the modified calendar!



  13. The early commencement/shortened winter break calendar is detrimental to those who teach field study courses during the winter session. There is no time to organize a decent trip or research project overseas even just for 2 weeks because in some year (e.g. 2024-2025) there will be as few as 12 days between the semesters!

  14. I oppose the “Early Commencement Calendar” making it impossible for us to operate a winter class in International Agriculture e.g. IARD602.

  15. The modified calendar is the best of the three as it has a relatively late beginning of the fall semester which is more aligned with the start of the fall semester (September) of the Ithaca School District.

  16. Having a shortened winter break is not a good idea because it will prevent classes like IARD 6020 from making their trips to India or Latin America. This program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and has been a very successful course to enlighten many students from many departments and colleges about issues in developing nations outside of the classroom. I strongly disagree with this change. It also will conflict with the study period and exams following Spring semester classes. A bad idea. Students also need a long winter break to recuperate from an intensive Fall.

    1. Good points but expand on your last assertion. Do you think things are so bad here compared to our peers that our students need a dec/jan break that is 1.5 weeks longer than the average?


  17. The calendar with a shortened winter break leaves only one week after the holidays (e.g., after the New Year) for intersession courses and field trips. For the wide array of courses that travel to tropical or southern hemisphere localities during this break, that is insufficient time both from the standpoint of efficiency and cost. Because of the nature of these courses, they tend to have a major impact on the Cornell experience of the students that take them, and provide exposure to unique opportunities to apply skills and learn in places they will mostly never visit again, and particularly in an educational setting with a qualified instructor. These courses are often the only opportunity for close interaction between a student group and a professor that provides career experiences not available in a typical T-Th lab run by a T.A., and often result in lifetime bonds among the student participants. Removing these opportunities that have been a part of the Cornell fabric for many decades would be a travesty. One more step toward turning our campus into an expensive “puppy mill” for students, with larger more impersonal courses and run-of-the-mill coursework.

  18. I am opposed to the early commencement calendar because of the negative impact on schedules and planning that have been in place for many years. Conferences are scheduled during winter break and International Programs has scheduled their IARD 6020 class trips to countries in Asia and Latin America for many years. This course is a very important experiential learning activity for our students. A schedule that coincides with Ithaca City schools is important for families.

  19. There are several problems with the “Early Commencement” schedule, especially the reduced winter break, which is important for research and grant writing.

    The current and “modified current” schedules both seem acceptable.

    It appears as though a modest change to either the current or modified current schedules could have increased the probability of overlap with local school districts, potentially benefiting many members of the Cornell community, by moving spring break to be one week later.

    1. Explain! We can reduce august childcare days by two if we cancel Fall break. We can also have a one week spring break in late april. Are you in favor of those trade-offs?

  20. A shortened winter break would have several negative impacts: 1) heating costs would increase because students would be on campus during the coldest part of winter, and 2) the winter break actually serves as a short term for international courses and Engaged Cornell opportunities. This is a valuable window for these courses because it does not interfere with summer employment, which is critical to much of the student body. It is possible to include these experiential courses in financial aid packages without affecting eligibility for other full semesters. This means that students who would otherwise not consider off-campus and international learning opportunities because of financial aid implications have the opportunity to participate. These experiential opportunities should be equally available to all, regardless of economic situation.

  21. I am strongly against the “early commencement” calendar, because it would substantially reduce winter break. Resuming classes that much earlier would eliminate the possibility of running winter field courses and study abroad programs, which are very valuable for many of our students. This schedule could also interfere with grant-writing, since many of the deadlines for federal grants in STEM fields fall in mid to late January.

    The current schedule has better overlap with the Ithaca City Schools calendar than the “modified current”, which is a benefit to many families in the Cornell community. For this reason I prefer the current calendar to the “modified current”, but either of these options would be significantly better than the “early commencement” schedule.

    1. Not quite true. As we define them, the modified and current calendar have the same number of child care days. Two fewer in august but two more in February because of the later Feb break.


  22. I hope very much we will not have the “Early Commencement” calendar. It has so many issues, in particular, the fact that a long winter breaks is so important for research for professors and graduate students. Practically eliminate it can have severe consequences on the academic level of Cornell.

    1. Faculty in social sciences here, active in both research and teaching. This captures my view exactly. I need the winter break to catch up on research, I am just too busy during the semester . Most of the grad students I advise work as TAs, and because of the heavy work load have to defer working on their qualifying papers and dissertations. Directing them to get back to teaching ten days earlier is exploitative.

  23. The “Early Commencement” calendar would eliminate winter classes such as IARD 6020, which traveled to Myanmar this past January and will celebrate its 50th year of operation next January in India. I have no objection to early commencement but I strongly object to shortening the winter break.
    Ronnie Coffman
    Director, CALS Office of International Programs

  24. The problem I have with the shortened winter break in the Early Commencement Calendar is that there isn’t time for winter classes. As a student who intends to minor in International Agriculture and Rural Development and who participated in the IARD winter class and field study, I can say that the winter class time provides unique and valuable learning opportunities that would not be possible during the normal semester. It would be a shame to adopt an academic calendar that eliminated time for winter classes and the experiential learning opportunities they provide.

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