By Stephanie Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday February 18, 2003
New proposal would make Thanksgiving break longer
The UA could save up to $846,000 if ASUA President Doug Hartz's fall break proposal is passed and the university closes for nine days for Thanksgiving.
Hartz and ASUA Director of Academic Affairs Christopher Farney are pushing to get fall break on the faculty senate agenda next month.
· Closing UA one day would save the university $88,000 ÷ $94,000
· If UA implements a weeklong fall break during Thanksgiving, it would save $616,000 ÷ $658,000
· For the entire nine-day period, UA will save $792,000 ÷ $846,000
If approved by the faculty senate, the vote would go to the Arizona Board of Regents. But if they don't approve the plan with the three extra days of vacation, Hartz will propose tacking on extra days to the beginning of the semester to maintain the number of class days.
Through a series of petitions signed and submitted in the past two years, UA students have supported the idea of a fall break even if it means adding the school days to another part of the semester, Farney said.
The university can remove two days of classes and still adhere to the number of contact hours ÷ hours of classroom instruction ÷ required by the Board of Regents. The third day would require the board's approval because the university would be short one contact hour.
Both Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University have less contact hours than the number required by the Board of Regents.
"Ideally, with the plan, we'd not have to add more days," Farney said. "But we've found that students are in support of starting school earlier if it means they can have a fall break."
"As it stands now, I think we can get away with not adding the three days," Farney added.
However, if days were added to the school year, the amount of money saved would not likely change, because most UA buildings and residence halls are up and running more than three days before school starts, Hartz said.
Closing the UA for one day would save the university $88,000 ÷ $94,000. If the UA closed for a full week for fall break, it would save $616,000 ÷ $658,000, Hartz's proposal stated. A nine-day closure of the university would save between $792,000 and $846,000.
The financial calculations do not include residence halls, which would remain open for students during the break, or buildings that cannot close due to scientific research being done in them.
The money saved, if the administration approves a fall break, would remain in the university's operations budget, a fund that has seen about a 10 percent cut in the last two budget cuts sustained by the UA.
"We don't want this pushed away to when tuition hearings get underway," Farney said. "We'd like this to be a priority."
Farney said if the faculty senate passes the plan, he couldn't see the regents denying the break.
However, the faculty senate's reaction to Hartz's proposal is still up in the air.
"I think the senate will consider it," said Robert P. Mitchell, faculty center program coordinator. "Most senators will be surprised to learn that (the UA is) meeting more days than other schools."
Some members of the faculty senate think differently.
"I think it will be a challenge for ASUA to persuade the senate to eliminate three days from the fall schedule," Mitchell said.
Mitchell expects that some professors will be concerned with the fall break schedule because they feel there is barely enough time to fit all the teaching in a semester with the current schedule.
Furthermore, having the break two weeks before final exams may add problems when the faculty senate examines the proposal, Mitchell said.
"The timing is not great for a mid-semester break because it is not mid semester," he said.
Hartz originally proposed the break so more of the 31.4 percent of out-of-state students at the UA would be able to travel home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The break would also give students extra time to work on school projects and research before final exams.
Graduate and Professional Student Council President Pete Morris said earlier this month that fall break would be a united effort for both undergraduate and graduate students. Graduate students tend to travel farther for graduate school than undergraduates and the break would help them travel home, he said.
"I think it definitely works," said Matt Bracconeri, an economics senior. "I live across the country, so a longer break would definitely make the trip more fulfilling."
Four of the UA's 15 peer institutions and more than 25 universities across the country have implemented a fall recess or an extended Thanksgiving break.
"I do believe this is a positive step for this institution and for students to prepare for the most difficult part of the semester," Hartz said.
On the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving last year, Hartz and the other ASUA senators surveyed classes to find the overall drop in attendance during that week. The survey found that the average attendance in classes dropped to 56.5 percent of the total students enrolled in the class. Twenty-nine percent of teachers cancelled classes the week of Thanksgiving.
Due to the way the UA's calendar is created in two-year blocks, fall break could not begin until fall 2004.
If fall break is implemented at the UA and the university loses three days of classes, UA would have the same number of days of classes as ASU, Hartz said. UA would still have more contact hours than NAU.