Implement a winter semester

Cole Krautkramer

With course registration for the upcoming maymester, summer sessions and fall semester fast approaching, the gut-wrenching feeling of seeing classes you need fill up or having your browser load slowly when registration opens is beginning to set in.

To give students greater flexibility and more opportunities to complete their academic requirements, UT should introduce an official winter semester during the monthlong winter break and expand the number of courses currently offered at that time. 

A number of UT students choose to fill their years spent on campus pursuing multiple degrees, minors or certificate programs, and more often than not, they are looking for ways to fit these additions into their schedules and graduate on time. Additionally, for students who must take mainly lower-division core classes that fill up quickly, a winter semester would provide another opportunity to learn.

“If I had been able to take some classes during the winter … that would have been really useful,” Sammy Healey, mechanical engineering and economics sophomore, said. “A lot of kids don’t come in with as many AP credits and IB diplomas as some other students, so I think winter courses are a really good way to help students either a) catch up or b) add to their degree plan.”

This change would provide numerous benefits, including increased free time during the larger fall and spring semesters to pursue other time-sensitive interests, such as research and volunteering. 

While this could also lead students to possibly overworking themselves, preventable measures can be taken. 

“I think that there are definitely concerns that students may overload themselves and not take the winter season to rest and recover from the semester,” management sophomore Anwesha Ranabijuli said. “But I think those types of issues can be solved by having advisers be wary of students taking a big course load and intervening if they feel as though the student is overworking themselves.”

Beyond the concern of mental well-being, some worry there are not enough professors to teach or money to sustain this endeavor. There is also fear that courses would still not be offered even with these new openings. 

However, with University costs being fixed and colleges choosing courses based entirely on student need before professor availability, the true concern should lie in the status of our academic calendar. 

“Historically, UT has always held some classes that leverage the winter break, but due to the way that our current academic calendar model works, it doesn’t work for the majority of classes,” said Joey Williams, director of communications in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

Moreover, offering classes at nonstandard times has been valuable, seen in the student turnout rates for its summer session and maymester and by other institutions, such as Baylor University.

Recent changes to the definition of academic calendars by the Department of Education has led the faculty council and representatives from the provost’s office to identify adjustments that would add more flexibility and innovation. While this is a start in the right direction, this discussion will likely just lead to smaller changes with minimal impact since these are generally easier and cheaper.

To effectively change the trajectories of students’ lives, a winter semester must be introduced. A winter semester is the one way to fully assess multiple of the current academic calendar’s faults and allow all students to pursue their interests and retain choice in their academics.

Otherwise, if not employed, the rigidity of the system could leave numerous students stuck struggling to graduate.

Krautkramer is a Plan II honors and undeclared business freshman from Grapevine, Texas.