Trimming Turkey Day

UIS considers shortening Thanksgiving break

On Friday, March 27, the Campus Senate deliberated on the potential removal of the week-long Thanksgiving break in the fall semester, in favor of a two-day break the week of Thanksgiving, with the addition of another small break somewhere else in the semester. The changes would go into effect in the 2016-2017 academic year.

The proposed change would still give students Thanksgiving and the following Friday off, but class would be in session for the first three days of the week. As a result of preserving the week of Thanksgiving, the semester would end a week earlier.

The senate also considered the addition of a “fall break,” which would add another break to address the concerns of the fall semester’s long interrupted period being too rough. The length and time of this break poses another challenge, however, as, since the university must maintain that week as at least a half week, the fall break must be a maximum of two days.

The overall process of designing an academic calendar is quite cumbersome according to Director of Records and Registration Brian Clevenger.

Clevenger, who is in charge of putting together the draft of the calendar to submit to the senate for voting, pointed out that “There are a number of policies and guidelines that must be followed. For our campus particularly, specific faculty personnel policies must be abided by, as well as a number of directives from the Campus Senate itself.” These directives include the finals week as well as an adequately long grading period.

The senate was divided on the issue. Those in favor of the change cited students’ tendency to lose focus after the break, current grading deadlines that keep some faculty on campus until after Christmas, as well as difficulties for students in academic trouble that need to know their grades before deciding which classes they can and want to take the following semester.

On the other hand, concerns were raised regarding the difficulty of the fall semester, the usefulness of a Friday off as a fall break to most students and faculty, travel difficulties for students leaving the day before Thanksgiving, and the possibility of students leaving before the Thanksgiving break officially begins, opting to skip a class or two and head home early.

Ultimately, the senate called for an advisory vote that ended 9-8 in favor of keeping the schedule the same. While the advisory vote did not decide anything, a decisive vote may take place at the next senate meeting on Friday, April 10.

Dr. Tena Helton, the English Department Chair, stressed that, while it may seem like an easy solution to ask faculty to get the grading done sooner, some classes, including one of her English classes, use a portfolio system that leaves most of the grading to be done after the final submission date. This could potentially force faculty to spend their Christmas grading papers.

Helton also argued that the schedule should not be shaped around students that might skip class to leave early for Thanksgiving, which was a primary motivation in the switch to the current schedule. “I’m not sure scheduling for folks who are doing the wrong thing is the right way to go,” she said.

Student senator Hannah Cave said, “Part of me really wants students to do better and be more productive in that last two weeks, the burnout is [a factor] by Thanksgiving. So while I appreciate the ten-day break, I also think it has its very negative implications on students’ academics.”

Cave is not convinced that the current proposal is the correct rout to change, however. “I am concerned about the Wednesday of break, being in class and students not being able to travel. And then I feel we need more than a one-day [fall] break. A Friday is not really significant or meaningful to any student.”

Cave also cited the need for student feedback. According to her, it is difficult to solicit that information when not many students know about the issue.

Concerned students are encouraged to email Cave at [email protected] or Clevenger at [email protected] with their thoughts on the potential change.