College administrators are currently exploring whether to change Dartmouth’s academic calendar so that Fall term ends before Thanksgiving, according to Dean of Faculty and interim Provost Carol Folt. Students and faculty will eventually have the opportunity to weigh in on the analysis, Folt said.
“This is very preliminary,” Folt said. “It’s an idea. The faculty have talked about it informally, but it hasn’t been the subject of a major faculty discussion.”
If the change were implemented, both Fall and Summer terms would begin earlier, while the dates for Winter and Spring terms would remain unchanged, according to Folt and Adam Keller, executive vice president for finance and administration.
The administration recently formed a workgroup tasked with examining possible changes to the calendar, Keller said.
“If people decide this is a great idea and it’s going to enhance our academic experience, then I’d think you would want to implement discussion to see if [the changes] are feasible,” Folt said. “For us, rapid is not immediate. It is usually at least a year out, if not more.”
Several faculty members have raised concerns that students lose motivation in the lead up to Thanksgiving break, and that the break is an unhelpful interruption to the term, Folt said. She noted that many professors notice a decrease in the number of students attending classes in the days preceding the break.
“Put together with the financial expense for students who fly home and the loss of momentum for academics, students frequently want to leave to go home before the official start of Thanksgiving vacation,” Folt said.
“We have gone through an issue identification process that is helpful for providing information for a real discussion that hasn’t taken place yet,” Keller said.
The calendar change would allow the College to save money on heating costs during one of the coldest periods of the year, Folt said, although some facilities would need to remain open.
Keller pointed to the increased employment opportunities for students that may result from a longer break, while Folt highlighted the administration’s ability to use the time for planning and facilities repair. The College’s year-long schedule means that the administration currently lacks a long period of time for such activities.
It is too early to determine whether there will be special programs or events for students who remain on campus during that period, Folt said.
Changing the schedule, however, is not without drawbacks.
The changes would affect the timing of several events that occur during interim, Keller said. In particular, the schedule for Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips, Orientation and class reunions which occur between Summer and Fall terms each year would have to be moved to accommodate an earlier Fall term, Keller said.
The calendar change would also affect preseason training and regular season competition for fall and winter sports, Keller said.
“The faculty has been talking about this maybe as far back as 10 or 15 years ago,” Folt said. “There has been a long-standing interest in determining whether the Thanksgiving vacation is really helpful for academics.”