Changes in Penn’s academic calendar to meet state standards have necessitated many in the community to adapt.
Classes will begin August 28 this year, more than a week earlier than in the past. Scheduling changes have also been made to both fall and Thanksgiving breaks in order to meet the standard on the number of classroom hours.
The change in the calendar has affected groups from area landlords to departments within the University.
Landlords have shifted their leasing schedules to accommodate the new calendar. Campus Apartments started shifted the leasing schedule two years ago. While leases used to end in August, they now end on July 25 and start on August 1, allowing students to arrive in time for classes to start.
According to Daniela Talanca, assistant property manager for Campus Apartments, 50 of the company’s units still have leases which start in September. Some of these are rented to Drexel students, whose summer quarter ends Sept. 4.
University City Housing, which own 560 housing units in the area, also shifted its lease schedule after learning about the new academic calendar. Students with leases that ended late in the summer can now terminate their leases in May.
“Normally we wouldn’t be too accommodating, but this year we were. It allowed us to create more June leases,” said Bill Grove, the company’s regional manager.
Almost all — 530 out of 560 — of the company’s units allow students to move in between June and late August, before the first day of classes. The other 30, which mostly belong to Drexel University and University of the Sciences students, start at other times during the year.
This year’s early start date also coincides with the Annual Meeting and Exhibition of the American Political Science Association, a conference that the majority of the Political Science Department — as well as professors in related fields like communications — attend. The conference starts on August 29 — the second day of classes — and ends September 1.
Most professors interviewed said this was a minor inconvenience at most.
Professor John Lapinsky, the undergraduate coordinator for the department, called it “a non-event” because most professors and graduate students travel to the conference on Friday and leave by Sunday, missing no class time.
Political science professor Guy Grossman, who will be on leave from teaching this semester, was more concerned that a longer school year decreases the amount of time a professor can spend on his or her research.
“The bigger inconvenience is that we have two less weeks to do research,” he said.
The timing of the conference also affects graduate students, who may have to miss classes for the conference.
However, several professors attending the event pointed out this conference coincides with the beginning of the school year at many colleges and universities.
“We (Penn poli-sci faculty) are just having to now do what some colleagues at a few other colleges and universities have been doing for a while,” political science professor Rudra Sil said in an email.
These changes that members of the Penn community are adapting to were also made to ensure that the University meets state standards in order to be reaccredited this year.
Pennsylvania’s Curricular Credit Policy — which defines the minimum requirements for universities and colleges statewide — dictates that colleges and universities must offer “42 hours of rigorous college classroom instruction,” not including exams or holidays. In past years, some classes, especially those on Monday, had fewer than 42 classroom hours. The new schedule ensures that all courses meet for the required amount of time and that the University will be reaccredited.
Several other solutions were also on the table, including making classes longer. However this would have meant a longer day for students, starting at eight in the morning and continuing into the evening. Additionally, longer courses introduced scheduling difficulties.
“It’s already difficult to allocate time [in classrooms and lecture halls] across classes,” Nelson said.
Administrators also considered eliminating fall break. However, even with this measure, school would still have to begin in August during some years in order to meet state standards.
“There was an imbalance in the calendar and this rectifies the imbalance,” Executive Director for Education and Academic Planning in the Provost’s Office Rob Nelson said.
According to the University’s official academic calendar, theses shifts — an earlier start date, a Thursday through Sunday fall break, and the Thanksgiving week schedule changes— will last at least through spring 2016.
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