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April 4, 2003

ALSO SEE: Details on calendar proposals.

Calendar options unveiled
Campus to be surveyed on preferences

What do you think?
Rank your calendar preferences in an online survey.
by Diana Pounds
Should winter break be longer? Should lecture classes last 50 minutes or 55? Should a "mini-term" be scheduled between fall and spring semesters? A presidential task force has been pondering these questions and many others for several months as it works on the next university academic calendar.

The result is four calendar proposals submitted this week to President Gregory Geoffroy. The proposals were developed by the Academic Calendar Task Force, led by Arne Hallam, chair of the economics department.

Before selecting a proposal to recommend to the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, Geoffroy said he will seek broad input on the merits of the proposals from students, faculty and staff. An online survey for ranking the calendar proposals and offering other comments will be available on the university Web site in about a week.

"I hope that most of our students, faculty and staff will complete this short survey," Geoffroy said. "The university calendar affects the entire university community, and I want as many voices weighing in on the calendar options as possible."

Geoffroy said he will gather campus input through the end of spring semester and analyze that input and the merits and impact of the individual calendar proposals over the summer. Geoffroy added he will update the campus community at the beginning of fall semester and seek additional input before reaching a final decision.

The new calendar will be implemented as soon as it's feasible, given the need for regents approval and coordination with on- and off-campus groups.

While one of the calendar proposals (Proposal A) essentially mirrors the current calendar, other proposals would introduce new twists to the university calendar, such as later starting dates, longer class periods but shorter semesters, and a new term between fall and spring semesters.

Three proposals call for a "mini-term" between fall and spring semesters. Students would be able to complete three-credit courses during 10 or 13 days of classes. For example, a student taking a three-credit course in 13 class days would put in three hours of class time per day, thus achieving a semester's worth of classroom instruction in the shortened term.

The proposal resembling the current calendar features approximately three weeks of winter break, while the other three proposals extend winter break by one to two weeks.

The task force wrestled with the winter break issue, Hallam said. "Winter break is a busy time for many faculty members who are finishing one semester, getting ready for another, preparing proposals and attending professional meetings. A longer winter break helps ease the load. On the other hand, winter break can be a slow time for students, who prefer longer summers and more time to earn money. The alternatives presented attempt to balance these competing demands."

Although three proposals extend the winter break, Hallam noted that only one of those proposals reduces the current number of weeks between spring and fall. Another maintains the current 15 weeks and the other extends the summer by a week.

Another new feature in two of the calendar proposals is a 55-minute (rather than the traditional 50-minute) class period on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 85-minute (rather than the traditional 75-80-minute) period on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Under the 55-minute class proposals, morning classes would start at 8:00, 9:05, 10:10 and 11:15, and afternoon classes at 12:20, 1:25, 2:30, 3:35 and 4:40. Currently morning classes start on the hour and afternoon classes at 10 minutes after the hour.

The longer class periods would shorten the weeks of instruction in a semester from the current 15 weeks to 14 weeks and include a Thursday-Friday class recess during October for the fall semester, and a Thursday start date for spring semester.

Total instruction time remains the same across all four plans -- 2,200 total minutes of instruction over the semester for a three-credit class.

All proposals include a one-week spring break, beginning the 11th Monday of the calendar year. That's when Iowa State's break falls now, as do the spring breaks at Iowa's other state universities.

For a detailed look at the proposals, see the Academic Calendar Task Force Report at

Summary of
Alternative Proposals
Proposal A   Proposal B   Proposal C   Proposal D  
Weeks of instruction
(not including finals)
15 14 14 15
Class length (minutes) on MWF 50 55 55 50
Class length (minutes) on TR 75-80 85 85 75-80
Approximate weeks of winter break 3 4 5 4
Days in winter mini-semester 0 10 13 10
Range of fall start dates Aug 20-26 Aug 27 - Sep 2   Aug 27 - Sep 2   Aug 20-26
Range of fall commencement dates Dec 15-21 Dec 15-21 Dec 15-21 Dec 15-21
Two-day break in October No Yes Yes No
Range of spring start dates Jan 8-14 Jan 18-24 Jan 25-31 Jan 16-22
Range of spring commencement dates May 5-11 May 5-11 May 11-18 May 11-18
Instructional weeks in summer 12 12 12 11
Weeks between spring and fall semesters   15 16 15 14

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