This semester a white paper revised by the Undergraduate Student Government Association Committee for Curriculum and Institute Policies has circulated through the administration offering proposed changes to the Academic Calendar. The outlined changes offer various options that would essentially shorten semesters, changing finals week schedules and postponing the withdrawal date for classes.
The authors of the white paper which include Laura Margaret Burbach the Curriculum and Institute Policies Chair, Arjun Meka the Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Nick Picon the SGA President, Lucy Tucker the Executive Vice President and the remaining members of the committee Charlie Bryant, Emily Burke, Justin Tamayo, Jimmy Tang, Samir Vedantham and Joy Zhang attribute various factors to negatively affecting the mental health of campus overall and call for serious changes to be made to the academic calendar.
“People are starting to consider this as a very real option, I would definitely think that the white paper has been successful in terms of the idea of actually implementing a shorter school year or some of the other changes we’ve proposed,” said Burbach.
According to a study done by the University of Toronto titled “Semester Lengths at Top U.S. and Canadian Universities,” at 150 days, Tech’s academic calendar features more instructional days than any other university in North America. While also Tech’s programs have been ranked as having the least manageable workload out of 1,394 colleges and universities according to College Rankings “Most Manageable Workloads,” list.
The deadline to withdraw from classes was described as “fairly early in the semester” and may not allow for some students to have received a single grade before they must decide whether or not to stay in a class.
While also the current structure of finals week only allows one weekend between the last day of classes and the beginning of finals week which will also leave some students taking their last final as late as the Saturday morning before they walk in graduation that afternoon.
With these problems, there were four alternatives created for shortening the school year which included integrating longer intermittent breaks throughout the semester, including a minimester in January, including a minimester in May and extending the summer term. Ultimately the committee decided to focus on the Maymester plan which would shorten each semester in order to create a Maymester.
This would make the school year 20 days shorter overall for students and 6 days shorter for those participating in the Maymester. The optional three-week minimester would be created to offer an intensive course for a short period of time that may not be offered during a regular semester.
“Some of the ideas that we had flowing through that was that we could have shorter study abroads for students especially co-ops who may be going to study abroad for just three weeks a much shorter time. We could almost like trade professors with UGA who wouldn’t teach at Georgia Tech for humanities and stuff like that with our dates all lined up,” said Burbach.
The weekend wrapped finals week stems from recommendations from students and administrators who have expressed a desire to change the way finals week is structured in order to incorporate more study time for students.
With finals week wrapped around a weekend, dead week would be shortened to three reading days with no assignments due and finals starting at the end of that week. The remaining days of finals week would allow students time to move out as well as options to reschedule events like “Ramblin’ On” for graduating seniors.
Additionally, the delayed withdrawal date would eliminate the uninformed decision many students feel they are making when they may want to drop a class. It would also eliminate many students from withdrawing from courses and then simply reenrolling the next semester taking up spots for students still trying to take the class for the first time.
Overall these suggested changes are still only part of a proposal, but the committee ensures that administration has been discussing what was submitted to them.
“I spent a good amount of time meeting with all of the relevant campus administrators on this issue, and all of them have expressed their full support. I’m confident the change will come, but because this is a large undertaking it certainly won’t happen overnight,” said Picon.
Ultimately though the academic calendar is always published three semesters in advance, so final changes would not take effect until three semesters after they are approved.
Currently the administration is taking further looks into exactly how these proposed changes would affect all sectors of campus including dining, housing, coursework and more before making any recommendations or decisions of their own.