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October 10, 2003

No clear favorite between academic calendar options

by Diana Pounds
The two proposals under consideration for Iowa State's next academic calendar are drawing about equal support among those making comments through an online forum.

Approximately 325 students, faculty and staff have used the forum to discuss what they like (or don't like) about the proposals.

One of the proposals (calendar A) mirrors the current academic calendar. It includes 15 weeks of instruction per semester, 50-minute and 75- to 80-minute class periods, a three-week winter break between fall and spring semesters and a 15-week summer break between spring and fall semesters.

Calendar B extends class periods by 5 minutes, shortens the semester to 14 weeks, and increases the summer interval to 16 weeks. It also includes a two-day class break in October and a 10-day, optional mini-semester in early January.

"Clearly a lot of individuals see an advantage to calendar B's longer winter break and the J-term," said Arne Hallam, head of the task force that developed the calendar proposals and economics department chair. "On the other hand, there's a lot of sentiment of 'If it isn't broke, don't fix it.'"

Hallam said he notices some recurring themes in comments about the two calendars. These include:
  • Support for the two-day October break (under calendar B). "Many people feel it's a long stretch from the start of semester to the Thanksgiving holiday," Hallam said.
  • Concern about the loss of laboratory sessions (under calendar B), a result of the shorter semester, October break and starting the spring semester on a Thursday.
  • Mixed feelings about the J-term (under calendar B). "Quite a few people think there are some interesting things to do with a J-term," Hallam said. "Others say it's more appropriate for a small liberal arts school, but not a large research university."
  • Concerns that students will have less time to study and complete projects during the shorter semester (under calendar B).
Hallam said students, faculty and staff have submitted good ideas and thoughtful comments on the calendar proposals. He encourages others in the campus community to read those comments ( and submit their own, particularly if they have new issues or ideas.

President Gregory Geoffroy has asked that campus groups and individuals provide input on the academic calendar proposals by Nov. 14. Geoffroy plans to make a decision on the next academic calendar in mid-December.

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