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  October 28, 2002

Senate Adopts Amended Calendar Proposal
By Richard Veilleux

An October 21 University Senate vote changing the University's academic calendar clears the way for a December 2003 commencement exercise in Storrs, retains a four- to five-week winter break, and starts and ends the academic year earlier than at present.

The new calendar will take effect next August.

University Chancellor John Petersen, a leading proponent of the calendar change and the additional commencement ceremony, was pleased with the outcome of the lengthy debate.

"The new calendar offers myriad opportunities for the academy," Petersen said last Tuesday. "It offers our students a head start in summer employment and interning opportunities; enhances our ability to host more summer conferences, making better use of these wonderful new facilities; and opens the doors to a mid-year commencement." He added that having a December commencement recognizes the increasing numbers of students whose course of study cannot be bottled up in a traditional four- or five-year span, as well as our increased number of out-of-state students, who face hardships if they must return in May.

"I compliment the Senators for their hard work and their spirit of compromise, and I hope to open discussions in the near future to begin the task of implementing a December commencement ceremony," said Petersen.

In December 2001, bachelor's degrees were conferred on nearly 600 students. Another 196 students earned their master's degrees, and 57 students earned doctoral degrees, according to Kathleen Shipton, assistant registrar. A number of them did not attend ceremonies in May.

The new calendar, which was approved by voice vote, represented a compromise between the proposal advanced earlier this year by the Senate's Scholastic Standards Committee and a version submitted Monday by professors Thomas Terry, Harry Frank, Philip Mannheim, and Carol Polifroni.

Although it does not alter the original proposal for the fall semester, the amendment delays the proposal's spring semester opening by one week, addressing the most pressing concern expressed - that a shorter winter break would be detrimental to a wide range of disciplines. They said winter break is an important period for research, student field work and, in the case of the music department, rehearsals.

The initial proposal called for spring semester classes to begin the week before Martin Luther King Day. In most years, that would result in a winter break of only three or four weeks, one of which includes Christmas and New Year's Day.

The amendment moves the start of classes in the spring to the day after Martin Luther King Day, creating a four- or five-week break, depending on the year. Fall semester will begin the Monday before Labor Day.

The new calendar ends fall semester exams during the second week of December, creating a window for the mid-year commencement. Spring semester will end one week earlier than currently, and the standard commencement exercises also will take place one week sooner.

The amended calendar also averted another concern by allowing individual professors to decide how and when to recover classes lost due to the Monday holidays. In the original proposal, classes postponed by the holidays would be made up the following Saturday, creating a conflict for student athletes and musicians who perform on Saturdays and those Jewish students who observe the Sabbath.

A one-week break is built into each semester; the fall break is the week of Thanksgiving.

Sally Reis, professor and head of the educational psychology department and a supporter of the original proposal, said the amended proposal was positive.

"I'm going to support the amendment," she said. "It does all the things we wanted in the fall semester, allows us to offer a December commencement, and eliminates virtual days. It's not all we wanted, but it's a good compromise."

With the new calendar now agreed upon, classes will begin next year on August 25.

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