New year, new calendar woes

If you’ve taken a look ahead at next year’s academic calendar, you’ve probably already discovered that our Fall Break is being cut down to three days, meaning things like vacation and travel plans are going to be a lot more complicated. This is just the latest in a series of decisions regarding the calendar that have made it feel like a mess.

Last semester, there was the Veteran’s Day swap where all Monday classes were shifted to Tuesday and all the normal Tuesday classes were cancelled. The general consensus seems to be that it was a chaotic dumpster fire of poor attendance and class cancellations.

Then there was this semester where we skipped the President’s Day break without any explanation. And now we’re only getting three days off for Thanksgiving Break.

When inconveniences like these occur, you hear a lot of vague, directionless grumbling about how “they” keep messing up the schedule and taking away our breaks. The problem is, most of us don’t really have any idea who “they” are or what exactly their job is.

After talking to Colleen Ryan, a member of Campus Academic Calendar Committee, my understanding of how the system works is as follows: the calendar is proposed by the Calendar Committee to the Chair of the Academic Senate, who in turn makes a recommendation to the university president, who ultimately gets final say.

The Calendar Committee is made up of faculty members who serve on three-year staggered terms as well as appointees from other areas. They must take into account things like holidays, staffing considerations and the minimum of required instructional days which come from the CSU Chancellor’s office.

And at this point if your head is spinning, I don’t blame you.

The problem with these kinds of systems is that often times the more bureaucracy and red tape you jam into a process, the less common sense and accountability there is in the final decision. Good intentions are often lost in a sea of rules and regulations, leading to outcomes that seem nonsensical.

One thing that could help would be a little more transparency on why certain decisions were made regarding the calendar. People would probably be a lot less frustrated if they knew why they were missing certain breaks instead of just being left in the dark.

Another solution could be less rigid requirements from the Chancellor’s office regarding number of instructional days. Obviously, there needs to be some level of uniformity across the CSU system, but the rules as they stand now are too stringent and overly complex.

I’m sure that no one on the Calendar Committee wanted to take away days from people’s Fall break. But since Veteran’s Day falls on a Monday again next year, and there’s a minimum amount of required instructional days for both the year and each day of the week, it was either do another swap like the one everyone hated last semester, or shorten the break.

It’s a thankless position to be in, and one that’s only further complicated by multiple levels of requirements and approvals.

This doesn’t exactly leave the student body with a great place to direct our ire toward. Which part of the bureaucracy do we complain to: President Conoley? The Academic Senate? Chancellor White’s Office? Does complaining to one link in the chain even help solve the problem?

It’s easy to be mad about changes to the calendar that end up costing us our days off. But once you understand the problem, the solution becomes a lot more complicated.

While there is no immediate answer to the problem, it is important to remain aware of the changes being made to the calendar in order to understand how to begin to challenge the bureaucratic system that has impacted our holiday breaks.

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