University Moves School Start

The University has shifted the start dates for fall classes over the next seven years to minimize disruptions caused by the Labor Day holiday and to alleviate the “compressed pace” of the fall semester, according to an e-mail sent to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences community yesterday.

Given that Labor Day—which always marks the first Monday of September—falls on Sept. 5 next year, classes in fall 2011 will be moved back from Sept. 6 to Aug. 31.

The schedule changes seek to ease the tightened nature of the fall semester, which was shortened last year after the University-wide calendar reform moved finals to before the start of winter break.

“[Next year’s fall semester] would have been even five days shorter than the average spring,” said Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris. “I think four, five, or six days is actually substantially shorter.”

The new start date will not result in additional days of instruction. Instead, the extra days will be likely re-allocated to reading period, exam period, or vacation days, according to Harris, who penned the e-mail statement.

“Some kind of fall break is certainly something [the College is] looking to get built into the calendar,” Harris said. But he added that the final decision rests with the University provost.

Some undergraduates said that they would like to see the additional days generated by shift in dates used to create a fall break.

“I think that in terms of the fall schedule, the fall schedule is often very crammed where you have maybe two months where there is not a big break,” said Peter Chen ’13, who served on both the Committee on General Education and the Gen Ed Planning Committee. “It would be really good to give students a break like there is in the spring, especially because a lot of other schools do it.”

Katherine W. Steele, director for freshman programming at the Freshman Dean’s Office, said that she would also support more vacation days during the fall semester.

“I’ve heard students mention that before,” she said. “I’d definitely be in favor of a fall break.”

The changes in the fall schedule were made in conjunction with other schools in the University. The proposal, which originally came from FAS, was agreed upon by other schools, according to Harris.

Freshmen dorms will open Aug. 25, and the undergraduate Houses will open Aug. 27 next year. Classes will start Sept. 4 in 2012, and Sept. 3 in 2013.

The University’s academic calendar reform took effect last year, eliminating the College’s intersession and moving finals before winter break.

According to Peter Kronheimer, director of undergraduate studies in the mathematics department, students are still in the process of adjusting to the new fall schedule.

“Half the students here have never known anything else,” Kronheimer said. “It’s been a bit of a challenge, but I think it’s worked okay.”

—Staff writer Julie R. Barzilay can be reached at jbarzilay13@college.harvard.edu.                                                              —Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at newcomer@fas.harvard.edu.

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