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Student fall break to begin next year, administrators say

Submitted by Jacob Ellerbee on November 19, 2012 – 2:42 pmNo Comment

After several Faculty Senate discussions and research conducted by the Academic Calendars and Schedules Committee, Chancellor Joel E. Anderson has approved a fall break for the university that will begin Fall 2013.

Faculty Senate President Laura Smith-Olinde said members of UALR faculty and staff have been discussing prospects of such a policy for the past two or three years.

According to records of the Faculty Senate meeting April 26, Anderson expressed reservations about approving a fall break. He asked that the Academic Calendars and Schedules Committee conduct research and present the findings before he signed off on the proposal.

“I’m not sure we’ve investigated all aspects thoroughly,” Anderson said. “I feel better when policy changes are evidence-based, and the fact that other institutions do it is not necessarily a good reason.”

According to Jason Kushner, who chaired the Academic Calendars and Schedules Committee that conducted the research requested by Anderson, it took some time to gather all of the information necessary to help reach a verdict.

“The committee set out to study what was the practice at other Arkansas campuses,” Kushner said.

One of the concerns with fall break is meeting all required instructional hours.

“The state has mandated that every class that is three credit hours must have a certain number of minutes,” Smith-Olinde said.

Kushner said the committee needed to verify that no instructional time would be lost if there was a fall break. He said the committee found this was a particular concern regarding lab time in the sciences areas.

“If we allow a break in the middle of the semester,” Smith-Olinde said, “it makes it very difficult for [the science area] students to get the required number of clinical hours that they need to get.”

On the other side of the argument, she said it would be an opportunity for students to have a break from class, and faculty would have time to catch up on work.

“Now, this is not a faculty break. Classes won’t be held. We might use that time to catch up on some things.”

After all of the research was submitted for review, the Faculty Senate intended to take a vote on the proposal. Kushner said the Senate planned to vote on the proposal in the final meeting of spring 2011, but several snags impeded the vote.

“It was suggested due to the likelihood of debate, and Dr. Eshleman’s (the former Senate president) resignation, it [the vote] was tabled until the beginning of the fall 2011.”

The proposal was then passed by the Faculty Senate and then sent to the Office of the Chancellor for review and final approval.

In the end, Kushner summarized the entire process by saying, “policy in higher education just takes a long time to go from idea to practice.”

UALR’s fall break, October 14-15, falls on a Monday and Tuesday. The school will also be closed an extra day for Thanksgiving break. It will be closed Wednesday (the day prior to Thanksgiving) through Sunday.


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