Faculty members petition against fall break proposal

Christine Ayala

The prospect of students catching up on homework and getting a few extra hours of sleep during a fall break hasn’t been supported by everyone on campus, as a number of faculty members have voiced opposition to the proposal.

Nearly 40 faculty members have submitted petitions in opposition to the two-day break since the Faculty Council approved it in January. Only 25 petitions were needed to call a special meeting of the general faculty to make the decision on fall break. The proposal will require a majority vote of faculty members at the special meeting to pass.

Kornel Rady, government and communication studies sophomore and Student Government representative, helped write SG’s original fall break proposal. She said certain professors have made it clear they think the fall break is not worth losing lab or class time, but that the break could help overwhelmed students.

“Fall break can theoretically increase retention rates, aid mental health and help freshmen transition into the University,” Rady said. “[It] would be welcomed by many, and hopefully we can continue to win and fight this battle to get it through our administrators.” 

The proposed break would give students a Monday and Tuesday off toward the end of October, while starting the semester two days earlier.

Biology professor Hans Hofmann said if fall break includes Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, it would cost his course a week of lab instruction. Hofmann said if the break were an extended weekend similar to Labor Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, only course lectures would be cut. He said regardless of the placement it would ultimately not benefit students.

“Fall break will significantly impact the learning experience of our students, and I doubt that it will have the desired effect,” Hofmann said. “Students can and should be helped with time management and prioritization, but simply giving them a couple of days off will not solve these issues. Students who come to UT-Austin should not be surprised by the fact that they have to work hard.”

Engineering professor Jon Olson said the biggest challenge for the fall break initiative to pass is the concern about labs. Olson teaches a lab in the spring and is designing a lab to add to a lecture course in the fall.

“I don’t want to minimize the concerns of others who teach established lab classes,” Olson said. “However, I believe that the addition of a break will be good for the students and the faculty — good enough to be worth the trouble of adjusting existing lab courses. I can really see how such a respite in the fall would be valuable to me as well.”

Published on March 6, 2013 as "General faculty to vote on fall break proposal".