UT’s General Faculty votes against fall break, improved proposal on the way

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Blinda McClelland, lecturer for the School of Biological Sciences, expresses concerns relating to the date placement of the fall break.

Photo Credit: Marshall Nolen | Daily Texan Staff

Students will not get two extra days in the fall to relax and catch up on schoolwork — at least not any time soon.

At a special meeting Monday, faculty members voted against the fall break proposal, which would have given students and faculty a two-day break near the end of October. The proposal would have also pushed the start of school two days earlier in August.

Of the voting members present, 27 voted in support and 58 voted against. 

The special General Faculty vote was announced after more than 59 faculty members submitted petitions in opposition to the proposal. Only 25 petitions were needed to call the general meeting. The last time a special meeting was called for the general faculty was 2001.

Many said the two-day break would cost classes required lab time, even if labs were available during the first week of class.

Currently, the University has 12 full weeks of school for labs in the fall. If the fall break was implemented, professors would need to include labs during the first week of class to maintain the number of sessions.

Faculty members, such as astronomy professor Paul Shapiro, also expressed concerns about not getting paid during the proposed longer first week. 

“The de facto extension of the school year is being treated too causally,” Shapiro said. “This is fundamentally an issue of compensation and work conditions for faculty and staff. For us to pretend that adding two days at the beginning is compensated somehow by a break in the middle is false.”

Elaine Rich, computer science senior lecturer, said the proposed break would cause attendance problems for the days leading up to a fall break, similar to the problem with students missing class the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

“Kids want to leave early and get cheaper plane fights,” Rich said. “Have we considered that with adding a second break we would have a similar problem? They leave early and come back late. There is too much temptation given, since we don’t want to just fail kids because they didn’t come that day.”

University President William Powers Jr. would not comment on his opinion of the proposal unless the legislation passed the general faculty vote.

Kornel Rady, government and communication studies sophomore and Student Government representative, helped write SG’s original fall break proposal. Rady said although he was disappointed in the result, he would continue working with Diane Bailey, University Academic Calendar Committee chairwoman, to rework the legislation for the Faculty Council.

“The proposal is going to come back. Even though it didn’t pass, this is just the very beginning,” Rady said. “We’re going to work on a new proposal that not only gives students a fall break but also fixes the other problem with the fall semester. Now that we know about the issues the faculty has with the calendar we can try to make everyone happy with new legislation that is less controversial.”

Bailey said the current legislation is now dead, but she will continue to work on a better proposal. 

Printed on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 as: Fall break proposal does not pass