UT one step closer to getting a fall break

Christine Ayala

UT students might be able to sleep in a couple of extra days during the fall semester after the Faculty Council voted Monday to approve a two-day fall break.

The break would take place on Monday and Tuesday of the ninth week of the fall semester, pushing the start of school two days earlier. The proposed calendar change will need to be approved by the general faculty to be implemented.

Diane Bailey, chairwoman of the council’s University Academic Calendar Committee, said after approving the motion, the committee will continue to look at potential problems the change may cause. Faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences and the Cockrell School of Engineering opposed a fall break, claiming it disrupts lab schedules. 

Currently, the University has 12 full weeks of school for labs in the fall. If the fall break is implemented, the University would still have the same number of full weeks for labs, but one of those weeks would be the first week of school when many professors do not feel ready to start hosting labs.

Michael Domjan, psychology professor and faculty council member, opposed the proposal for a fall break.

“The committee feels that this issue with labs can easily be taken care of, but that doesn’t mean that the faculty of Natural Sciences or the faculty of Engineering share that view,” Domajn said.

Bailey said the two-day break would provide a much-needed mental rest for students, especially freshmen who are still adapting to college-level coursework. 

Andrew Clark, international relations and global studies senior and vice president for Senate of College Councils, said visits to University Health Services’ Mental Health Center to request crisis service increased from 496 in the 2007-2008 academic year to 786 in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Bailey said the break would not solve the problem of low attendance the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or balance the fall and spring semesters to have the same number of class days. The fall will continue to have 70 days, and the spring 74.

“It would provide an opportunity for students, graduate students [and] faculty to have a break in the middle of the semester to recoup some of our energy so that we might progress in the second part of the semester with full strength,” Bailey said. “It is, in particular, something that is expected to be a benefit for freshmen who are adjusting to new workloads and new a pace and a new life.”

Domjan, however, said if students want to face less stress, they could limit their activities outside the classroom.

“I would like to suggest that the students would be less stressed if they didn’t attend ACL and they didn’t go to OU weekend and didn’t do all these other things.” Domjan said. “Then they wouldn’t have their work pile up.”

Rebekah Thayer, business honors and finance senior and Student Government representative, helped write the Student Government legislation in the spring of 2012 and said she appreciates the council taking students’ concerns with the fall semester into account.

“We feel that the faculty council understands where the students are coming from and they’re supporting something that many students truly need and is going to help the University going forward with retention rates for freshman and overall morale of the student body, as well as productivity,” Thayer said.