May 28, 2014
SALT LAKE CITY — What began as a grumbly hallway conversation between two kvetching faculty members in January 2012 has spurred the creation of a new academic calendar for the college. Beginning in the fall of 2014, Westminster will implement the new calendar, which includes the addition of longer breaks, a faculty prep week prior to the start of the spring semester, a Spring Break that aligns better with other area schools and the demise of the often bewildering “Academic Mondays,” to name a few.
Did anyone outside of faculty really understand what Academic Mondays were anyway?
According to Westminster Registrar Mindy Wennergren, the college has had academic days for as long as she remembers—at least 28 years. They originated when the school’s accreditation bodies mandated that all institutions must have 14 of every day of the week, plus a finals week during any given fall or spring semester. When a holiday would fall of a Monday, such as Labor Day, the college had to “create” an extra Monday in the schedule by using a day that had a count of 15 instead of 14.
“Every year I heard complaints, over and over again, about academic days,” said Dr. Jen Simonds, associate professor of psychology and one of the primary catalysts behind the creation of the new calendar. “Our number one priority was getting rid of academic days, which was a real problem for students because of their work schedules, adjuncts because they’re doing other things, and anyone whose lives do not completely revolve around the college.”
In January 2012, Simonds recalls a disheartened conversation with Dr. Michael Popich, philosophy professor, about how early classes were starting in January, which led to the idea that they should try to “do something about it.”
Which is exactly what they did.
By the spring of 2012, Popich met with the college’s Registrar, Mindy Wennergren, to discuss regulations and accreditation requirements surrounding the current calendar. Later, Simonds and Popich approached Provost Cid Seidelman to discuss the formation of a committee to discuss creating a new calendar, which he supported.
In the summer of 2012, a committee consisting of five faculty members was formed to discuss the initial steps for creating a new calendar, but from there, the committee evolved into an “ongoing, ever-morphing task force with no set membership,” according to Simonds. All faculty, staff and adjuncts were invited to attend all the meetings.
After administering a faculty survey showing that only one aspect of the old calendar had a 50 percent satisfaction rate or more (May Term), additional committee meetings were held to discuss items that people were most dissatisfied with. An initial calendar was developed in December 2012. After several renditions of the proposal and presentations to the ASWC senate and the Student Life Office, the next steps for campus-wide input were announced to the entire college community.
After more discussions and revisions, the faculty approved the schedule in April 2013. The following month, the new academic calendar was approved by the Board of Trustees to be implemented in the fall of 2014, more than a year later.
The new academic calendar highlights include the following:
The college’s start date in the fall stays the same
- The date will continue to fall on a Wednesday
- The date will continue to be 1 1/2 weeks before Labor Day
- Fall and spring semesters will last 15 weeks
- Academic Mondays have been eliminated
Students and faculty will have an entire week off for Fall Break
- All staff will have the Friday of Fall Break off
Finals week will run on the normal class schedule (i.e., no special finals week scheduling)
- Professors will hold finals during the last week of classes
- Grades will be due on the following Wednesday by noon
Spring semester will start later in January to allow for class preparation with staff members in offices
- The first day of classes will be held on the second or third Monday in January, but will be held no earlier than January 10
- The campus will no longer observe President’s Day as a holiday (staff members gained an alternate day off during Fall Break)
- Spring Break will be held later in the semester to align better with other institutions
- There will always be a week in between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of May Term
- May Term will end in early June, but will still be the same length (four weeks)
- Beginning in 2016, commencement will take place between spring semester and May Term
Students will now have the option of attending summer term beginning in May
- Courses may be 4, 8 or 12 weeks long