New calendar could change student life

Danielle R. Swopes

How often does a student think about the academic calendar?

From a student’s perspective, the academic calendar may seem to be a relatively mundane issue. Just tell students when to show up and when students can go on vacation.

Recently, however, the calendar has been changing. Committees have been formed and dates have been moved. The time to recharge over winter break is quickly diminishing as CSUN (along with the rest of the CSU) switches to Year Round Operations, which means that the summer session will become a regular semester. Another major change to the calendar is that Veterans Day will no longer be celebrated during winter break, due to a new bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger requiring the CSU to observe the day on or as close to Nov. 11 as possible.

Shifting the observance took away an instructional day, which must be made up elsewhere. The CSU has strict rules regarding the number of instructional and academic work days required in each term.

This semester, classes did not start until after Labor Day, and they will not end until the week before Christmas. Classes then start up again before the end of January.

This schedule is different than in years past, when classes started before Labor Day and ended in mid-December. There are pros and cons to the new scheduling.

“It gives us a nice end of the summer, a three-day weekend,” said Dr. James David Ballard, sociology professor and president of the CSUN chapter of the California Faculty Association.

When classes start before Labor Day, it’s “almost like that first week is wasted,” Ballard said.

Then comes the end of the semester, which is Dec. 22. Students are studying for finals when previously they would be out finishing their holiday shopping.

Airports, however, may see a bit less traffic.

“It costs students more to go home for the holidays,” Ballard said.

Seats may cost more close to the holidays, depending on the airline. Prices increase if students follow their usual habit of procrastination, or family plans are not made far enough ahead of time.

Once the holiday issues are resolved, the college world looks forward to the rest of winter break. Some look forward to winter session, the opportunity to be that much closer to graduation. Others just crave the time off.

“It’s a time when both faculty and students recharge their batteries, prepare for the spring semester,” Ballard said.

But the changes in the winter break schedule aren’t the only ones that will drastically be affecting students.

“Summer YRO has lots of implications and puts pressure on the calendar,” Ballard said.

One possible implication is the loss of winter session classes.

“The whole point of the trimester system is getting rid of winter and going full summer,” said Sarah Jackson, Associated Students vice president.

“Having a full trimester rather than two smaller sessions is a way of offering more classes, helping students be able to graduate at a specific time,” said Adam Salgado, A.S. president.

Salgado serves on an ad hoc committee that makes calendar suggestions to President Koester.

Besides the overall number of days, the calendar must also balance the number of Monday/Wednesday, Tuesday/Thursday, and Saturday classes, said Frank Stranzl, manager of the faculty personnel and compensation programs. If the campus is closed for many Mondays, those classes won’t balance with Tuesday/Thursday classes.

The movement of the Veteran’s Day observance opened up a hole in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Now staff must either work or take a vacation day on Dec. 29, while campus is otherwise closed between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, Jennings said.

When developing a calendar, “you must look at the calendar not in the isolation of that one year,” Stranzl said. “You need to look at least three years out” to see how days and events fall and make changes accordingly, he added. It isn’t possible to simply pick up this year’s academic calendar and plop it onto next year.

“Keeping things the way they were just because we want to may not be possible,” Ballard said.

The 2007-2008 calendar has already been approved, and there are more changes. Like the UC schools, CSUN will be starting next fall semester on a Thursday rather than a Tuesday.

During fall finals, Monday will be considered the last day of formal instruction, and finals will start Tuesday, whereas the last day of instruction was previously a Friday and finals started after the weekend.

The calendar for a given academic year is approved a few years before it is implemented. Currently, committees are working on approving a calendar for 2008-2009.