Faculty Council votes to extend Thanksgiving break

Eleanor Dearman

Thanksgiving break took a step closer to being one day longer.

The Faculty Council voted to extend Thanksgiving break at a specially called meeting Monday. The new schedule is expected to be implemented in 2016, once approved by President William Powers Jr. and Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost, according to University spokesman Gary Susswein.

The Faculty Council previously approved extending the break in May, moving the proposal to a general faculty vote. Because too few general faculty members were in attendance at Monday’s meeting for a quorum to be present, the Faculty Council took the vote instead.

To make up for the missed Wednesday, the Faculty Council approved extending classes to the Monday after the break — a day that would normally be a dead day. The vote follows the council's decision in May to add an extra day to the end of the semester, pushing back dead days to Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We talked about it, whether we should start earlier,” said Hans Hofmann, integrative biology associate professor and chair of the Universities Calendar Committee. “There was a lot of concern about that because of the summer session. There are a few days that would be available for professors to recover before the fall semester starts.”

Astronomy professor Harriet Dinerstein said she was concerned that shortening the period before finals would negatively impact students because they would have less time to review course content.

“Adding that extra day at the end not only increases the disparity between Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes and Tuesday-Thursday classes but basically removes half of the study time that the students have between the end of classes and the beginning of finals because we now have two days for the weekend and two more dead days,” Dinerstein said.

Other professors, such as mechanical engineering professor Raymond Orbach, said they were concerned students would start skipping the Monday before Thanksgiving break instead of Wednesday.

“The change would mean that Wednesday would no longer be taught, and I think, frankly, that the students that normally don’t come on Wednesday would probably not come on Monday,” Orbach said. “And what we would see is an attrition of the class.”

Student Government President Kori Rady spoke at the meeting as a student representative. Rady said having the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off would allow out-of-state students easier and safer travel.

“The out-of-state students are not being put into consideration,” Rady said. “There are a lot of UT students who are not from Texas — roughly 10 percent of our student body.”

According to SG Vice President Taylor Strickland, since many professors cancel class anyway, the change will allow students to be in class more.

“Every year I’ve been here, my teachers have always canceled class,” Strickland said. “We pay for every class we go to, and the loss of value to us for canceling a class is far greater than getting a day off.”

After faculty members and the student representatives voiced their opinions, the proposition was approved 27 to 19.

Andrew Clark, former Senate of College Councils president and author of the original proposal, said he thinks the extension of Thanksgiving will provide safer travels for students and give them a needed break before finals.

“Since we’re so close to finals at that time, it gives a short mental break for people to relax with their families,” Clark said.