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A Modified Academic Calendar for 2013-2014

December 13, 2011, Volume 58, No. 15

In 2013-2014, Penn will undergo a reaccreditation review by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).  As part of this review, the MSCHE will examine our academic calendar in light of Pennsylvania Department of Education regulations.  Compliance with these regulations is critical for Penn’s reaccreditation, and the MSCHE has indicated that definitions of “academic year” and “credit hour” are important elements of their expanding role in ensuring compliance with state and federal policies.  To bring Penn into full compliance with these regulations, the academic year calendar must add additional days of instruction to the fall term and make minor changes to the spring term. 

On September 13, 2011, we wrote to Deans, Department Chairs, and Center Directors about the need to change Penn’s academic calendar to add instructional time to the fall term, beginning in 2013. As part of this communication, we included a draft calendar developed by the Council of Undergraduate Deans. After consultations with faculty, students, and staff across the university, and further discussion with the Council, we have decided to implement the academic calendar recommended by the Council.  We are confident that this calendar will be the best and least disruptive means of complying with Commonwealth policy.

A number of questions and concerns were raised in the course of these consultations. Because many local school districts start their school year after Labor Day, and the last weeks of August offer few childcare options, faculty and staff who are parents of younger children expressed concerns about the difficulty of planning childcare during this period. In the spring and summer of 2013, we will make concerted efforts to raise awareness about Penn’s existing backup child care services. In addition, we will work with Business Services to develop a new program, based on the Snow Day Child Care program, for the days on which Penn holds classes prior to Labor Day.

The Council also considered the options of eliminating Fall Break and/or Reading Days.  After discussions with faculty and students, Council members agreed that these brief periods for relaxation and reflection are important features of the calendar and have educational value for both students and instructors.  An additional proposal suggested holding classes at special meeting times outside the usual class schedule. This proposal would require more time and consideration, and we would welcome a substantive exploration of such potential future alternatives to the current arrangements of class time.

The Council of Undergraduate Deans has charged a working group with examining the summer academic calendar beginning in 2014. The work of that group will be completed in spring 2012, and consideration of summer 2014 will be included in the proposed calendar for 2014-2015.

We thank all the members of the Penn community who have contributed their time and energy to this important process. 

—Vincent Price, Provost

—Andrew Binns, Vice Provost for Education

Related: 3 Year Academic Calendar

Almanac - December 13, 2011, Volume 58, No. 15