NU to implement calendar changes to spring break, commencement

Elizabeth Byrne, Summer Editor

Northwestern will implement changes to the academic calendar as early as the 2019-20 school year, according to a Thursday press release.

The changes, approved by University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Jonathan Holloway, include extending the length of spring break, moving commencement and other graduation ceremonies closer to the end of classes and allowing more flexibility to professors when scheduling final exams, the release said.

Holloway has appointed two faculty members, Linguistics Prof. Robert Gundlach and McCormick Prof. Karen Smilowitz, to co-chair a faculty workgroup that will advise on the winter and spring calendar changes. The workgroup will also focus on potential changes to Fall Quarter, including a proposed “concentrated period of instruction” between Fall and Winter Quarter.

“The group will carefully vet proposals and innovative ideas and develop action plans that ensure smooth implementation and offer our University community clear benefits,” Vice Provost for Academics Lindsay Chase-Lansdale said in the release. “We understand the complexity of these potential changes, and we will be sure that any updates to the academic calendar and the related educational offerings have an overall positive impact on our academic experience.”

The new changes to the academic calendar started with recommendations from the Faculty Task Force on the Undergraduate Academic Experience in January 2016, the release said. In the report, the group said that the current academic calendar “mandates a rapid pace” and “can detract from students’ ability to engage fully with each assessment.”

The proposed schedule would also eliminate Senior Week, a week after final exams that provides programming for seniors before graduation weekend. Holloway told The Daily in May the Northwestern Alumni Association was one of the only constituents that was opposed to the elimination of senior week, but said the University would find other ways to create that bridge between alumni and graduates.

Holloway added that he sees the potential changes for Fall Quarter as an “incredible opportunity” for a lot of students who may not have had the same preparation for NU as other private schools and well-resourced public schools. The reimagined schedule would allow for students to take courses in the fall to prepare for the year instead of in the summer and give more time for students to adjust.

Additionally, the extended spring break would allow more rest time for students and could give some students almost two weeks off, depending on the final exam schedule, Holloway said.

“The winter and spring (change) is really about trying to create a breather between the terms to help people reset a little bit,” Holloway told The Daily. “There’s a lot of work to be done to make this a reality.”

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