Academic Calendar Modifications

Initiative Sponsors

Faculty Council and Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost

Background

The university’s academic calendar is one of the foundational tools guiding the timelines for university operations. Its creation follows federal, state, accreditation, The Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and Faculty Council policies and is published each year in August. In April 1975, University Council created a Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar document that governs the creation of our academic calendar.  Amendments to this document are vetted and approved by the Faculty Council and its C2 University Academic Calendar Committee.

Since that last amendment in 2014, there have been changes to federal policy and changing needs by the university that warrant another review and are reflected in our project objectives.  A campus steering committee will review and identify the key components for a recommended academic calendar that meets university educational needs, supports immediate and long-term innovation, supports the university’s academic mission, while ensuring compliance with university guidelines and federal and state regulations. The final academic calendar resolution will be developed by the Faculty Council Executive Committee in conjunction with the C2 committee for Faculty Council vote.

Given the constraints of the changes necessary to comply with federal guidelines, faculty members will make up at least 50% of the steering committee, with the remaining members key university administrators and students. The scope of this review will include significant input from faculty committees, including A5 – Faculty Welfare, C2 – University Academic Calendar, C4 – Education Policy, C11 – Research Policy Committee, and additional faculty committees, as well as a host of other undergraduate and graduate stakeholders across campus.  This includes faculty, students, academic advising, and administrative staff. The steering committee will engage representatives from these groups through membership, consultation and discussion.

Create a sustainable academic calendar framework that:

  1. Meets campus educational needs and supports faculty and program academic flexibility and educational innovation.
  2. Develops a four-year academic calendar schedule to support long-term and short-term degree program planning.
  3. Meets compliance with university policy and federal, state, and THECB regulations.
  4. Includes updated final exam policy which:
    1. provides an appropriate exam schedule (number of time slots, days, and length) to meet the demands of campus,
    2. consider the safety of our students and instructors regarding when (times) exams are offered,
    3. addresses limits on the number exams a student could be required to take in a day, and guidance on how alternatives are provided.
  • Provide recommendation to Faculty Council Executive Committee in time for development of a final resolution to be developed, for Faculty Council vote planned for May 2021 meeting (to meeting timeline for implementation beginning the academic year of 2022–2023).
  • Post four year academic calendar starting with the 2022-2023 academic year by September 1, 2021, to support academic planning and calendar implementation in fall 2022.
  • Must meet Federal Aid compliance
  • Must meet THECB requirements
  • Must meet university policy
  • This framework should include the creation standardized sub-terms for each semester. For example, creating 4-week, 8-week, and 12-week sub-terms, a May Term and a Winter Term to accommodate classes offered between our traditional 15-week semesters, etc.
  • The review will result in a calendar that provides consistency of instruction days for each long semester(e.g., both fall and spring semesters will have the same number of instruction days and final exam periods).
  • Creation of a calendar that provides opportunities for enhanced summer semester offerings.
  • Consideration of requested changes to fall break (more or less time), school start dates (starting on a Monday), and minimum time to submit final grades (asking for a minimum of 72 hours after final exam to submit grades; 96 hours are preferred).
  • THECB allows for some exceptions to THECB calendar policy. The assumption is that any exceptions will be vetted and approved by them in order for us to proceed.
  • The Principles for the Development of the Academic Calendar document and the university catalog will be updated based on approved changes.
  • Research, faculty, and graduate contracts will be considered and may need to be adjusted or aligned with changes to the academic calendar.
  • Professional programs may need unique academic calendars. It is assumed that the charge for this committee is to identify a university-wide academic calendar, and that the process is intended to create enough flexibility to meet program needs.  If a professional program cannot fit within the proposed solution, a recommendation of a subsequent task force, under a new project charter, will be the appropriate result of this project.

Sponsors

  • Anthony Brown, Faculty Council Chair
  • Rachelle Hernandez, Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment Management and Student Success, Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost

Co-Leads

  • Tim Shanahan, C2 Committee Chair
  • Mark Simpson, Assistant Vice Provost for Enrollment Services and University Registrar

Committee Members

  • Anthony Brown
  • Jim Cox, A5
  • Kristin Harvey, C4
  • Jen Moon, C4
  • Stuart Reichler
  • Brian Evans, FCEC
  • Katie Payne
  • David Vandenbout, Academic Dean
  • Renee Acosta, Assistant/Associate Dean
  • Doug Morrice, Assistant/Associate Dean
  • Carol Longoria, VPSA
  • Sarah Singer, ACA Board Member
  • Jim Cox, Graduate School
  • Gregorio Ponti, Graduate Student
  • Owen McGeary, Undergraduate Student

Project Consultation

Additional consultation and feedback will be broadly implemented through existing university channels including:

  • faculty council committees,
  • student government,
  • ACA,
  • SSAC,
  • associate deans,
  • assistant deans,
  • Deans Council,
  • Academic Information Systems,
  • Texas Global,
  • Housing (UHS),
  • New Student Services,
  • Dean of Students,
  • VPR,
  • VPSA,
  • HR – contracts and employment (faculty and students),
  • University Libraries designate,
  • Graduate School, and
  • Office of General Faculty.

Staff Support

Denise Broussard, Administrative support

Amanda Karr, Communications and Marketing support

You can view the committee’s presentation on revisions to the academic calendar here.

 

 

This resolution proposes changes to the university academic calendar. You can review and download here.

 

What is the naming convention of the term/sub-term model?

As we adopt a term/sub-term model, fall, spring and summer are defined as umbrella “terms” (that we will refer to as “semesters”) and contain “sub-terms”. Sub-terms within a semester will end with the word “term” in its title. For example, “Winter Term” is a sub-term within “Fall Semester”, “May Term” is a sub-term within Spring Semester, and “First Term”, “Second Term”, and “Nine-Week Term” are sub-terms within Summer Semester.

Likewise, the 70-day standard Fall Term and Spring Term are technically sub-terms within the umbrella terms of Fall Semester and Spring Semester.  Please note, what the institution currently knows as the Fall Long-Semester will now be called Fall Term, and Spring Long Semester will now be called Spring Term.

Do you plan to create more sub-terms within Fall and Spring Semesters?

In the future, yes, but not upon implementation of the policy.  We have requests to create First Term, Second Term, Nine-Week Terms, etc. for both Fall and Spring Semester.  We anticipate we can adopt these formally only when we upgrade our course scheduling and registration software.

Does the proposed model meet the contact hour requirements established by the THECB and other accreditation bodies?

Yes.  All classes are required to deliver 15 contact hours per credit hour.  A traditional 15-week 3 credit class is required to have 45 contact hours.  Short term intensive classes or accelerated classes must have the same number of contact hours as a traditional length class.  The principles in this model, as related to contact hours, are already being adhered to in our current calendar “Summer Session” comprised of a First Term, Second Term, and 9-Week Term.  

What were the considerations when addressing final exam changes?

Discussions over the last two years have included requests by faculty to have more time to submit final grades after final exams. Students and faculty requested we adjust exam periods to limit late evening exams, students have asked for shorter final exam lengths, students and faculty have asked for a full Fall Break, and staff have asked for the grade due date to be on a Thursday.  We also spent significant time discussing the minimum lengths of sub-terms to ensure our existing course offerings are compliant with regulations, while also protecting faculty’s need to deliver effective learning experiences.  All of these considerations resulted in requests that couldn’t be met with a six-day exam period.  The recommendation to add two days to Fall Break and the need to create Winter and May sub-terms guided our four-day exam solution.

Did the steering committee review accommodation requirements when considering the proposed final exam model?

Yes, we held several discussions with leadership from the Services for Students with Disabilities Office.  This model provides eight potential three-hour exam periods and four potential four-hour exam periods.  Our recommendation also includes support for a C4 – Education Policy Committee initiative to identify and dedicate testing space across campus to accommodate our student testing needs.

Will there be Final Exam days for sub-terms or short-term intensive classes?

Final exams will be based on the Fall Term and Spring Term.  Winter Term, May Term, and short-term intensive classes will use the last instruction day for exams.

How will the proposed academic calendar impact faculty and student appointments and contracts?

The original charge for the academic calendar modification committee did not include focus on contract calendars.  However, we were aware of simultaneous discussions about contracts and knew that changes to the academic calendar would impact their discussions.  Leadership from both committees have met to discuss the initiatives and will continue to collaborate.  Discussions regarding the faculty and student contract calendars will continue outside of the academic calendar modification charge.

Can students be admitted and matriculate directly into a Winter Term or May Term?

Students will be admitted at the semester level.  Alternative entry points could be considered in a future date, but those approaches would need to address any additional programming, staffing, technical, and orientation needs before approval.

Will Winter Term and May Term have their own orientation sessions?

No.  Orientation events provided by New Student Services will only be provided at the semester level.  However, departments can hold orientations for their specific program.

Can a program require an orientation prior to the start of the defined semester?

Yes, as long as the orientation does not include any class content.  If it does include class content, it must be part of a scheduled class and cannot begin prior to the first day of a defined semester.

How is an orientation different from an instruction day?

An orientation cannot include any class content, whereas an instruction day includes activities where students earn academic credit.

Are bootcamps and/or leveling coursework required to follow the new model?

Yes, bootcamps and leveling coursework are considered class instruction and must be associated with a class if credit is being offered for the work.  Students must be registered in the class to participate.  If the bootcamp or leveling work are required, departments will need to offer the class in the semester prior.

Will these changes require additional course schedules for sub-terms?

No, we will continue to publish three course schedules a year, one for each semester.  All Winter Term classes will be included in the Fall Semester schedule, and all May Term classes will be included in the Spring Semester schedule.

Will these changes impact the timeline to create our course schedules?

Production timelines will shift slightly due to earlier semester start and end dates.  A taskforce will be created to address these questions and identify best practice solutions for moving forward.

When will registration be held for each semester?
Registration will follow a similar timeframe as our current process. However, because Spring Semester ends two weeks earlier, we will shift both Summer Semester and Fall Semester registration two weeks earlier as well.  Note: registration dates and deadlines for Fall and Spring Semesters will be based on Fall and Spring Term start dates.  A taskforce will be created to address these questions and identify best practice solutions for moving forward.   

When will registration take place for courses taken during the new sub-terms?

Registration for sub-term classes will occur during the registration periods for the semester in which it resides (e.g., students will register for May Term when they register for Spring Semester). 

Will the Winter Term and May Term have their own processes and deadlines?
Classes occurring during the Winter Term will use the Fall Semester deadlines and processes and classes occurring during the May Term will use the Spring Semester deadlines and processes.

When will grades be due?

Final grades will be due 72 hours after the last day of exams for Fall Term, Spring Term, and Summer Semester, 72 hours after the last day of Winter Term and May Term, and 72 hours after the last day of a short-term intensive course.

When will degrees be conferred?

Degree conferral will be one week after Fall Term or Spring Term grades are due.  Degree candidates who are enrolled in classes that do not end until after the Fall or Spring Term conferral dates will be considered for conferral after we receive final grades for those classes.

Will Winter Term and May Term have their own degree conferral dates?

No, since they are part of Fall Semester and Spring Semester, they will use the degree conferral dates associated with the semester they are assigned.

When will commencement be held?

University commencement will be held the Saturday after finals of Spring Term.  

How will the Quantity of Work rule be calculated?

Quantity of work (aka full-time, part-time status) will be based on the combined enrollment of each semester.

How does this impact holidays and campus closures?

The academic calendar honors all university holidays and campus closures.  Official holidays will be reflected in each year’s academic calendar. Similar to current policy, some departments will work during the skeleton crew portion of the winter break closure.  That decision is made by the unit leader based on the services they provide.  It is important to note, we currently have classes happening during the winter break closure.  It is assumed that the same protocols occurring today would continue as needed in the future.

What adjustments will be required for August and January Orientations and registration deadlines.

We anticipate small changes to when registration and orientation happens the week prior to school beginning.  A taskforce will be created to address these questions and identify best practice solutions for moving forward.

 

How will this impact tuition deadlines, financial aid and Veteran’s benefits? Would they still be applicable to May and Winter Terms?

Yes.  Since Winter Term is a sub-term connected with Fall Semester, and May Term is a sub-term connected with Spring Semester, their tuition deadlines follow the semester deadlines.  Financial aid and Veteran’s benefits are based on the students’ schedule for the overall semester’s work.  Meaning, Fall Term and Winter Term is combined, as is Spring Term and May Term.

How will this impact probation and dismissal? Would May and Winter Term classes need to be factored into those decisions?

No changes.  Scholastic status will be calculated based on each semester’s outcomes with Winter Term grades being included in Fall Semester, and May Term grades being included in Spring Semester.

How will this impact internal transfer? Would May and Winter Term classes need to be factored into those decisions?

As we do today for classes that are offered during the gaps between semesters, classes can be considered as part of internal transfer evaluations.  A taskforce will be created to address these questions and identify best practice solutions for moving forward.

Is there an expectation that courses be offered in these semesters or is this change being made to accommodate the classes we already offer?

These changes are to accommodate classes currently offered and the curricular needs of the academic units.

Has feedback been requested from other institutions who have similar calendars?

Absolutely. We have consulted multiple peer institutions and compared our existing and proposed models with over 30 institutions, including: University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M, The Ohio State University, UCLA, University of Florida, University of Michigan, and many others.

Have trimesters been considered?

Yes, we have reviewed multiple calendar models including semesters, trimesters, standard, non-standard, etc. as defined by the Department of Education and considered guidance by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.  The semester model remains as the best fit for our institution.

March 1 – Educational Policy Committee (EPC)

March 1 – Student Success Advisory Committee (SSAC)

March 2 – Red McCombs School of Business – Undergraduate and Graduate

March 3 – Associate Dean’s Advisory Group with Enrollment Management and Student Success (EMSS)

March 9 – Student Government Assembly

March 10 – Assistant Dean’s Council

March 10 – Association of American Universities (AAU)

March 10 – Graduate Student Assembly

March 10– Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA) – New Student Services, Dean of Students, Libraries, University Housing and Dining, Services for Students with Disabilities

March 12 – Texas Global

March 12 – Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid

March 15 – Dean’s Council

March 19 – School of Nursing – Gayle Timmerman

March 22 – Advising Community

March 24 – Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR) and Contracts – Tinley Hald, Carmen Shockley, Renee Gonzales, Jon Ekerdt

March 30 – Academic Information Systems (AIS)/ Enterprise Business Information Technology Solutions

(EBITS)

March 30 – Graduate Coordinators Network (GCN) and Graduate Assembly

March 30 – C2 Committee

March 31 – Student Accounts Receivable (SAR), Human Resources, Payroll, Benefits

March 31 – Strategic Academic Initiatives (SAI)/Accreditation Compliance – SACSCOC

March 31 – EMSS Leadership

April 1 – University Events – Doug Boling

April 1 – Senate College of Councils (needs to reschedule)

April 5 – Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD)

April 5 – Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid

April 6 – School of Social Work – Allan Cole

April 7 – University Academic Calendar Committee – C2 vote on principles document

April 7 – Open Forum

April 8 – Office of the Vice President of Research (VPR)

April 19 – Dell Medical School

April 21– EMSS & Associate Deans

April 22 – Advising Forum

April 22 – Option III Programs

April 23 – Payroll and HR for Student Employment

April 23 – Senate of College Councils – New Leadership

April 26 – Deans Council

April 26 – EMSS and ACA Executive Committee

April 27 – Center for Professional Education

Future meetings

April 30 – Chairs Council

May 3 – Faculty Council