Story by Bridget Gibley, Culture Editor
Photo courtesy of pexels.com
If starting this semester after only having a two-week break was hard for you, you weren’t alone — and you weren’t ignored. Aquinas College has recently announced some changes to the academic calendar that will ensure a three-week winter break, among other updates.
Aquinas College Provost Stephen Barrows said that the calendar has been in discussion for a while. Every few years, winter break is only two weeks long, simply because of the way the calendar falls, and this is hard on students, faculty and staff. Dr. Barrows said that the leading question during the discussion was, “What can we do to make sure that we can consistently have three weeks between semesters?”
Rather than having students start a full week early in August (which could be rough in the non-air-conditioned dorms) or end a full week late in May (which could interfere with summer jobs and post-graduation plans), the College has decided to start the fall semester a half of a week early. This means that classes will start on a Wednesday.
If you’re thinking that means extra meetings for classes on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, don’t worry. That will get balanced out in November, when classes will be cancelled on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This will also help students by giving them a travel day to get to their Thanksgiving celebrations.
With the half a week at the beginning of the semester and the half a week at Thanksgiving, the fall semester will be able to end a week early. Dr. Barrows pointed out the tentative academic calendar for the next several years, and mentioned that for the foreseeable future, “the latest anybody will have an exam is Dec. 18, so there’s a full week before Christmas.”
With these changes being implemented, the College will be running on a 15 and a half week semester for the fall, so some changes have also been made to make the spring semester symmetric.
In the spring semester, finals will begin on Thursday and end the following Wednesday. The Thursday and Friday after finals are free for awards ceremonies and more activities planned for seniors. Additionally, families who come in for commencement can have more campus space.
When asked how Aquinas would handle having classes and finals during the same week, Dr. Barrows said that workload distribution will be instructor-specific. Some may choose to adjust the syllabus to get major projects done earlier, or have review days during the first part of the week.
“All around, a shorter calendar makes sense,” said Mikey Maxwell, the Student Senate academic affairs director. The longer travel time for breaks will help out-of-state and international students, and it will allow faculty more time for grading.
These changes will be implemented slowly, as the academic calendar for next semester has already been set. However, classes will be cancelled on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this upcoming year, and there will be a three-week winter break, with classes starting again for the spring semester on Jan. 14.
There will be one other significant change to the academic calendar next year — classes will be cancelled from 3:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to facilitate the annual Social Justice March. Dr. Barrows emphasized, “We wanted to make sure…that students would have more of an opportunity to participate.”
The faculty members of Aquinas College have been examining this for at least a year and a half, said Dr. Barrows. The Faculty Affairs Committee and the Cabinet have discussed the pros and cons of multiple academic calendars, and this was the one that seemed to make the most sense while also meeting higher learning accreditation requirements. The 15-week is typical for many colleges and universities, and Dr. Barrows is confident that these will be beneficial changes for the entire AQ community.
About the writer:
Bridget Gibley is a second-year student at Aquinas studying English and Women’s Studies. She thrives on reading, writing, and lots of coffee.