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Academic Calendar Committee

The Committee is  in the process of optimizing across the multiple and sometimes diverging views that have been expressed through the   1000+ posted comments that  we received in response to our fall questionnaire and the 3000+ responses that we received in response to our recent online survey.

The survey was based on what we learned from the fall questionnaire  and our own research. 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.

Although the survey is now closed, you can still post comments below and you can still email the Committee.

Changes to the calendar are not likely to take effect before the 2018-19 school year.

The Academic Calendar Committee has these members, this charge, this timeline, and this outreach plan. We  post informal minutes after each of our meetings  and invite you to browse through some of the resources that have helped shape our thinking.  .


  1. The new F1 looks good. a 5-day break for thanksgiving week is unnecessary, particularly of there is still a Fall Break. For Thanksgiving an additional day off would be very helpful for the people who are travelling.

    I especially like the new S3, stating the semester earlier and having a more sensible break period. This is what I had as an undergraduate and graduate at 2 previous institutions. Certainly if Spring Break is placed at the first week of March we don’t need a 2 day break in April. As it stand now the Feb. break comes too soon after the beginning of the semester.

    I recognize that having a significant intersession period in January can be useful.

  2. S3 term starts extremely early and would make it impossible for Greek rush to happen. I would have to come back on New Years Day in this situation. The S4 calendar is the most similar to other Universities, and thus makes the most sense for Cornell to transition to. It allows for a significant amount of time out of school before most internships begin, so students are able to go home for more than approx 2 days. It would even be possible to add in a February/2 day break somewhere else and add 2 days to the end of term.

  3. I feel very strongly for the F2 calendar. Being from CA, the current way we have Thanksgiving Break does not allow me to go home (given the cost of the ticket versus the short period of time I actually get to be home). Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together and extending the break to the entire week would give more students the option to go home to their families.
    Further, I believe the S1 calendar is the most viable option for Spring. February break is just a mere three weeks after the start of classes as it is, and it is therefore not as appropriately placed as it could be. Delaying it by one week helps spread out breaks more evenly.

  4. S3 and S4 are really good because to gives students better opportunities for internships. F1 + S4 is great for families with kids. I think when making this calendar, please keep students in mind and a priority as students and their families are paying- if the students were not paying, then professors and staff would not be getting their salaries.

  5. F2 and S4 are reasonable. Winter Break is way too long with nothing to do. Summer Break is too short for internships.
    The following are bad in all options:
    1. Start the semester on a Monday. It is very disruptive to schedule otherwise. Some courses have labs and review sessions. We need full weeks.
    2. Eliminate the 2 day breaks. They are too short to be useful for anything.

    L.V. Orman

  6. Half-week breaks are a disaster for labs as they essentially knock out the lab for that week in a class with more than one lab session weekly. Normally setup is on Friday with labs MTWTh. I went to college in the UK: trimester system – start in October get over in early December, then January-March and April -June. Much better, and great for summer sports. Students do not need to break early in summer to harvest crops anymore!

    1. Most internships in the US start in May (and go through August) making a June to October break awful.

  7. All of the proposals (fall and spring), as best I can tell, suffer from the chaos created by the last calendar committee. Namely, the number of Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc. in each semester is NOT balanced. This continues to erode the effective number of real weeks that large lab courses (which have separate sections meeting every single day of the week) have for instruction. Please balance the number of days per week in any semester so that lab courses can fully utilize the semester for instruction. If we could balance the number of Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. between both semesters, that would really help to create uniformity in our large courses that run every semester.

    Basic things I am in favor of if the above is actually addressed (it can be in any calendar by simply scheduling later days in the semester as other days like many schools do (i.e. a Monday is scheduled as a Wednesday for classes to balance the days):
    1. Lengthening Thanksgiving Break to the full week. Trying to teach that week is like herding cats. The students have largely started to make it a week. Let’s just do it.
    2. I dislike the proposals that significantly shorten winter break. This is a time for students and faculty to perhaps travel and do short-term things at far cheaper times to travel. For many international students, it allows them to return home and actually enjoy their family without being on planes for 1/4 of the break.
    3. I don’t know why we want to move commencement up. Doing so moves it into even more unpredictable weather of mid May. I refuse to sit in cold rain/snow and I suspect many families would hate this experience. The probability of this increases as we move earlier into May. I understand some have criticized it being on Memorial Day weekend, but the three-day weekend allows many families to travel to it without taking time off work. This is especially important for families who make less money or have less flexibility in their own schedules.

    1. As a student, having a week for Thanksgiving break is awful. It is too late in the semester for it to be helpful.

      1. As a person who teaches a large course, you are in the minority. Teaching the early part of that week is like lecturing to an empty room.

    2. Regarding weekday. A lance, Please look at slide 20 in the summary

      1. Wow, it’s only taken 5 years for this message to finally be received. Let’s hope we finally do this as the solution presented in the summary was suggested by me years ago and rejected as “too complicated” for Cornell.

  8. F2 is better for students and instructors, with a caveat. The long thanksgiving break is much better, for students, but I’d like to see fall (october) break on Thursday and Friday, to balance the number of times a 1 day/week course meets. The workday balance would be much better: 13, 14, 14, 14, 13. As it is, a Monday lab or seminar would meet 3 times less than a Thursday course.

  9. What I dislike about the survey is that it doesn’t give you the option of pairing a current semester plan (Fall or Spring) with an option for adapting only one of the semester changes. Personally, I think keeping the current fall plan is best and then adopting either S1 or S2 is viable.

    I strongly dislike both fall plans due to the possibility of exams running until December 22nd, keeping RAs on campus until the 23rd and drastically increasing the number of students who try to push up their exams in order to get home sooner. Also having December recognition before exams are even finished, creating a whole host of problems.

    S3 and S4 are also terrible ideas, but there seems to be a general consensus on that (no more winter classes, RAs potentially having to be back January 1st/Greek rush starting January 3rd, etc.)

    By comparison S1 & S2 have much fewer negative side-effects. My ideal scenario would be the current fall plan + S1, but unfortunately the survey won’t be able to collect data on opinions like those since 1) those aren’t pairing options and 2) there’s no comment section on the pairs rating (which there REALLY should have been.)

  10. I think F2 would be a much better option if Fall Break was 5-days and Thanksgiving break was 2-days. Having a long break at the end of the semester is useless, it ruins the flow and makes it harder to study for finals.

    If S1 started a week earlier, then it would be the best option forsure. it makes the summer longer, has nice break in the right spot and graduation could be earlier.

  11. I believe F2 and S2 actually make the calendar worse than it already is. The first option (F1 and S1) addresses some of the students and faculty primary concerns as they relate to instruction and research which I believe should be the priorities of an academic calendar.

  12. I prefer F2 and S2. students tend to take the full thanksgiving week anyway and it alleviates travel issues and juggling classwork. It can also be advantageous for faculty who need to travel as well during that holiday.
    S2 makes the most sense to me because the spring break so late in the semester currently seems ill-positioned to be effective. the little break seems like it is just a party weekend. I think it will serve more as a reprieve later in the semester as students realize that the semester is drawing to a close. Spring break connotes fun and good times and the little break always seemed more of a study break and not necessarily a time to go away and do other things, just to catch up and have a mini-breather before the final push to the end.

  13. I add myself to the list of those opposing S3 and S4. In addition to the reasons mentioned in other comments, the long winter “break” is an excellent time for intensive courses that don’t work as well in a standard during-the-semester format. I just moved one of mine into “break” and it worked like never before.

    Steve Ellner

    1. I agree. S3 and S4 create so many problems to professor, postdocs, grad students and undergraduates.

  14. I strongly favour the S4 version. Feb break really isn’t necessary, and having less than a full one week break really screws up our schedule for active learning sections as we have them Mon-Thursday. I also like that Cornell graduation is brought earlier so students have the opportunity to explore more diversity in summer jobs – we always have some people who want to take the final early as they are committed to some course or other that starts before the end of finals.

  15. Neither F1 nor F2 is viable for Departments that offer large courses, unless the system for assigning final exams is changed. This semester, a colleague teaching over 600 students was assigned the last possible exam period. How are we supposed to grad 600 exams, starting at 5pm (or worse, 9:30pm if we need to use more slots with fewer exam days) on December 22? It just won’t work: we all want to travel to see family or colleagues over that period, and this would force faculty and our graduate student instructors to be in Ithaca on Dec 25.

    Tara Holm, Mathematics

  16. F1 is a much better idea than either the current system or F2. We start too early in August and I see no need for a whole week off at Thanksgiving. I personally would like to see better coordination with the school system calendar, mostly for others because by the time this happens my kids will be close to out of high school.

  17. F1 and F2 are not viable. December 22nd is too late for the last day of final exams. Many 1000 and 2000 level classes hundreds of students enrolled across all sections of a course, and students take a common final exam. A team of TAs and instructors grade these exams, and after exams are graded, final course grades are computed. This takes at least 3 days. Are we to expect the unlucky faculty and TAs with Dec. 22nd exams to work through Christmas? Unless the class size is taken into account when making the final exam schedule, I don’t see how F1 or F2 are reasonable. (Note that this semester, I am teaching Math 1920, which has about 375 students in the two sections. My exam is scheduled for the very last time slot, May 23rd at 2pm. My TAs and I will be here until the 26th of May.) December 19th is the last viable day for large lecture exams. This is not a small issue. In the Fall, in the math department alone, my rough estimates put student enrollments in courses with large common exams at over 2500. (Math 1910, 1920, 2930, 2940, 1110, and 1120 to name a few.)

    1. I strongly agree with this comment. Due to the late end of the semester, neither F1 nor F2 would work with larger classes with late exam dates. While the reasons for doing things like lengthening Thanksgiving break have their heart in the right place, if it ends up with a possibility of having a day as late as December 22 as an exam day, it is too high of a cost, as it could require both grad students and faculty to work into Christmas (and possibly afterwards).

  18. From the perspective of a student, F1 is better than F2 because we get the regular Fall break and Thanksgiving break. The 5 day Thanksgiving break in F2 is unnecessary because we have winter break so soon after that. For spring semester, S3 or S4 are truly the best options. The current length of winter break is too long. Everyone gets bored towards the end of the break because students from other colleges have already gone back to school, for example. In addition, we are wasting free time in January that we could be getting in May. We need to get out earlier in May so that we can start internships on time. I have even been in a class where the professor made the exam a take-home exam simply so that students could get home to begin internships. This shows that ending so late imposes a burden on students who are trying to start jobs or internships. Also, as a winter athlete who has to be back on campus by January 3rd, a month is a very long time to be here and not be in school. In addition, from experience, January is not any colder than the month of February. When class is not in session, there are very few places to go or get food without a car. Also, I’ve noticed students come back to campus anyway weeks before classes start because they are bored. We are not doing anything productive or enjoying travel/warm weather by having extra days off in January instead of in May.

    1. I would have to agree with this student regarding the length of winter break being too long. Being in student services, I don’t know how many students complained on how long winter break was this year. Winter break should be shortened and moving the end of the spring semester earlier in May.

  19. As a faculty, I really like the idea of having two weeks of instruction after Thanksgiving break, so my preference is for F2. My inclination would also to go for S3 or S4. While I often use this time for grant writing, I think it is a very long break for students who don’t take a winter session course or do a short internship.

    1. There is nothing wrong with long breaks. Americans need to stop the feigned “busy-ness” and the reluctance to stop work and take a rest. This is why the rest of the western world is mostly happier than us.

      1. For someone who is a professor and doesn’t have a five week winter break with nothing to do, it’s easy for it to not be a big deal. But for students and your average Joe, five weekly with nothing to do is hard and not rewarding.

        And since most student don’t take winter classes or are able to get a job/internship. It needs to be shorten and be a more productive time for students.

  20. I really like the F1 proposed schedule because of the, sometimes, later than Labor day start date. I don’t feel the F2 changes the childcare issues that much. I don’t have a strong opinion about any of the spring proposals. I like the idea of dropping the 2 day break from S4 and the earlier graduation.

  21. You may want to correct the errors on your survey:

    1) “affect” on the front page
    2) “represntative(s)” on the final page.

  22. Back in the 1970’s my University used to start it’s Winter break at Thanksgiving and we didn’t go back until the 2nd week in January. This allowed us far away students worthwhile travel cost to go home for the entire month of Dec. and made it possible to pick up a holiday job because you could commit to a chunk of time for an employer. We had three 10 week semesters, can’t remember if we had a week Fall break, but we had one week of Spring break in March between semesters, and we didn’t graduate until early June, but I don’t recall anyone I knew having any depression problems with this schedule. Maybe think out of the box on this if it’s all being changed.

  23. As staff, I don’t like the S3 and S4 plans because they do not allow me enough time to do the work I do to be ready for the spring semester. I also need longer to rest and be ready mentally after the fall semester.
    Ken Walkup

  24. For faculty families with school aged children, F1 is the only updated semester calendar that genuinely improves the mis-alignment of city school breaks with Cornell breaks. Several of the spring calendars would leave us with two Cornell breaks and two City School breaks, none of which line up. I would vote for F1 and the Current Spring Semester. If things have to change, F1 and S3. I don’t like the radically shortened winter break, but at least we would get to keep Presidents’ day.

    1. I also believe F1 improves instruction because the week after Thanksgiving is usually wasted (as is the short Thanksgiving week).

  25. It is a big mistake to return to a calendar which requires students to take final exams after bout Dec 7, or to come back before Jan 22 Among reasons is our large number of undergraduate and graduate students from abroad who go home over that period

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