Diane Bailey

UT one step closer to getting a fall break

UT students might be able to sleep in a couple of extra days during the fall semester after the Faculty Council voted Monday to approve a two-day fall break.

The break would take place on Monday and Tuesday of the ninth week of the fall semester, pushing the start of school two days earlier. The proposed calendar change will need to be approved by the general faculty to be implemented.

Diane Bailey, chairwoman of the council’s University Academic Calendar Committee, said after approving the motion, the committee will continue to look at potential problems the change may cause. Faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences and the Cockrell School of Engineering opposed a fall break, claiming it disrupts lab schedules. 

Currently, the University has 12 full weeks of school for labs in the fall. If the fall break is implemented, the University would still have the same number of full weeks for labs, but one of those weeks would be the first week of school when many professors do not feel ready to start hosting labs.

Michael Domjan, psychology professor and faculty council member, opposed the proposal for a fall break.

“The committee feels that this issue with labs can easily be taken care of, but that doesn’t mean that the faculty of Natural Sciences or the faculty of Engineering share that view,” Domajn said.

Bailey said the two-day break would provide a much-needed mental rest for students, especially freshmen who are still adapting to college-level coursework. 

Andrew Clark, international relations and global studies senior and vice president for Senate of College Councils, said visits to University Health Services’ Mental Health Center to request crisis service increased from 496 in the 2007-2008 academic year to 786 in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Bailey said the break would not solve the problem of low attendance the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or balance the fall and spring semesters to have the same number of class days. The fall will continue to have 70 days, and the spring 74.

“It would provide an opportunity for students, graduate students [and] faculty to have a break in the middle of the semester to recoup some of our energy so that we might progress in the second part of the semester with full strength,” Bailey said. “It is, in particular, something that is expected to be a benefit for freshmen who are adjusting to new workloads and new a pace and a new life.”

Domjan, however, said if students want to face less stress, they could limit their activities outside the classroom.

“I would like to suggest that the students would be less stressed if they didn’t attend ACL and they didn’t go to OU weekend and didn’t do all these other things.” Domjan said. “Then they wouldn’t have their work pile up.”

Rebekah Thayer, business honors and finance senior and Student Government representative, helped write the Student Government legislation in the spring of 2012 and said she appreciates the council taking students’ concerns with the fall semester into account.

“We feel that the faculty council understands where the students are coming from and they’re supporting something that many students truly need and is going to help the University going forward with retention rates for freshman and overall morale of the student body, as well as productivity,” Thayer said.

UT students might be able to sleep in a couple of extra days during the fall semester after the Faculty Council voted Monday to approve a two-day fall break.

The break would take place on Monday and Tuesday of the ninth week of the fall semester, pushing the start of school two days earlier. The proposed calendar change will need to be approved by the general faculty to be implemented.

Diane Bailey, chairwoman of the council’s University Academic Calendar Committee, said after approving the motion, the committee will continue to look at potential problems the change may cause. Faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences and the Cockrell School of Engineering opposed a fall break, claiming it disrupts lab schedules. 

Currently, the University has 12 full weeks of school for labs in the fall. If the fall break is implemented, the University would still have the same number of full weeks for labs, but one of those weeks would be the first week of school when many professors do not feel ready to start hosting labs.

Michael Domjan, psychology professor and faculty council member, opposed the proposal for a fall break.

“The committee feels that this issue with labs can easily be taken care of, but that doesn’t mean that the faculty of Natural Sciences or the faculty of Engineering share that view,” Domajn said.

Bailey said the two-day break would provide a much-needed mental rest for students, especially freshmen who are still adapting to college-level coursework. 

Andrew Clark, international relations and global studies senior and vice president for Senate of College Councils, said visits to University Health Services’ Mental Health Center to request crisis service increased from 496 in the 2007-2008 academic year to 786 in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Bailey said the break would not solve the problem of low attendance the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or balance the fall and spring semesters to have the same number of class days. The fall will continue to have 70 days, and the spring 74.

“It would provide an opportunity for students, graduate students [and] faculty to have a break in the middle of the semester to recoup some of our energy so that we might progress in the second part of the semester with full strength,” Bailey said. “It is, in particular, something that is expected to be a benefit for freshmen who are adjusting to new workloads and new a pace and a new life.”

Domjan, however, said if students want to face less stress, they could limit their activities outside the classroom.

“I would like to suggest that the students would be less stressed if they didn’t attend ACL and they didn’t go to OU weekend and didn’t do all these other things.” Domjan said. “Then they wouldn’t have their work pile up.”

Rebekah Thayer, business honors and finance senior and Student Government representative, helped write the Student Government legislation in the spring of 2012 and said she appreciates the council taking students’ concerns with the fall semester into account.

“We feel that the faculty council understands where the students are coming from and they’re supporting something that many students truly need and is going to help the University going forward with retention rates for freshman and overall morale of the student body, as well as productivity,” Thayer said.

Even with faculty and student support, the implementation of a fall break for the University remains uncertain because of scheduling constraints.

Associate registrar Brenda Schumann said the feasibility of implementing a fall break depends on University and state guidelines for the academic calendar planning process. The state guidelines are issued by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Office of the Registrar uses both sets of guidelines to create the academic calendar.

She said the possibility of a fall break would require a change to these principles, as University regulations do not currently allow time for a fall break.

“The calendar is based upon the principles,” she said. “If they are to be changed, the University’s Calendar Committee would have to submit a recommendation to the Faculty Council for consideration and approval.”

Student Government passed a resolution in support of a fall break last week. The resolution supports an implementation of a two-day fall break that would extend the academic calendar two more days into December, but this conflicts with the University guidelines used to create the academic calendar.

The principles say the last day of classes should fall on a Friday in order to maintain the pattern of final exams. Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes must have 42 meeting days and Tuesdays and Thursdays must have 28. The fall semester should also have a minimum of 70 class days in a semester after accounting for the observance of Labor Day and the three-day Thanksgiving holiday, according to the guidelines.

Diane Bailey, chair of the Calendar Committee and associate professor of information, said the committee discussed the idea on its own initiative last year and has continued to explore the possibility of fall break this year.

Bailey said the number of constraints also include the regulations set by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The coordinating board sets a date for the start of every semester. The common calendar schedule has been set through the 2020-2021 fiscal year with the first day of class ranging from Aug. 22-28 depending on the year.

“There is a limited amount of wiggle room in the calendar depending on the year,” Bailey said. “It appears that some years might prove easier than others to extend the fall schedule by shifting the start date forward.”

Bailey said given the support from some members of the University community the implementation of a fall break will be determined by its feasibility.

Marc Musick, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said he supported the implementation of a fall break after his time teaching at the University of Michigan. Musick said students and faculty appreciated the break during the 15-week semester.

Musick said the University of Michigan is competitive with UT and is among other competitive schools that currently have a fall break. Other schools include Texas Tech University and Baylor University among 12 other universities, according to the SG resolution.

“I felt that it was good for students to have those days to rejuvenate and recharge to get them through the end of the semester,” he said. “The fall break is something I’ve supported for many years, but the University has worked without it for so long and will continue to do so without it.” 

Printed on Friday, February 24th as: Fall break possibility hits obstacle due to regulations

The National Science Foundation awarded $1.4 million in grants to three universities, including UT, to study the impacts of technology on occupations.

UT has appointed a principal investigator, Diane Bailey, an associate professor in the School of Information, to travel to different countries and gather data on how technology has enabled people living in remote areas of the world to acquire skills needed for professional occupations such as banking, engineering, entrepreneurship and graphic design.

According to the study, the focus is to understand how companies are using technology to train people to do jobs without direct social interaction.

“The way people learn [to do a job] is to be with people who have that job already,” Bailey said. “One of the things we suspect is that this new mode of learning allows a certain amount of leeway that one wouldn’t see in traditional occupational socialization.”

The grant will be split between UT, the University of California, Irvine and Northwestern University to carry out similar research projects around the world. The money will pay for travel between the United States, Brazil, Poland, Mexico and India, and it will also cover costs including office space and pay for graduate student hired to assist with research, Bailey said.

“Any time you get a grant, it’s a great day,” Bailey said. “It’s an opportunity for us to do exciting research.”

Bailey will collect data on Brazilian bankers, she said.

Technology has made it possible for anybody to get training to become a banker where it may not have been possible before, Bailey said. With more local banks around now, she said residents don’t have to travel to cities to cash their checks and spend money.

“Because people [were] spending their money in the city where their bank [was], they weren’t spending as much in the towns where they live,” Bailey said.

“One positive outcome for the community is a financial resurgence because of the correspondent model,” Bailey said.
Andrew Dillon, Dean of the School of Information, said the NSF grant recognizes the importance of information science in relation to the workplace.

“The right technology fosters connections between groups that allows for rapid organization and exchange of ideas without concern for distance,” Dillon said. “But with this comes unforeseen problems and challenges that will require analysis at the human and social levels to best exploit the technical power. We are becoming a vast socio-technical system that challenges existing structures.”

Communications studies graduate student Stephanie Dailey will be working with Bailey and will be traveling to Poland and India, she said.

“I’m going to be helping interview participants of the study,” Dailey said. “I’m really excited about collecting research in different countries. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that before.”