Lehigh scheduling changes for 2014-15 impact breaks: Students, faculty benefit from extended winter vacation


Lehigh’s academic calendar has experienced several scheduling changes this year, which impact the timing of pacing break, winter break and the start of the spring 2015 semester.

Pacing break was earlier this year, with classes canceled on Monday, Oct. 7, and Tuesday, Oct. 8. Students will have a longer winter break because the start of the spring 2015 semester will be pushed back a week. The last day of fall semester finals is Wednesday, Dec. 17, and the first day of spring classes is Monday, Jan. 19.

Lehigh has a calendar committee made up of members from the Athletics Department, the Office of Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, Residential Services, the Dean of Students and the Registrar, who provide recommendations to the provost regarding changes to the academic calendar.

University Registrar Emil Gnasso said an academic calendar is planned following the normal grid, and the committee gathers information from students, faculty and staff to discover potential improvements.

Gnasso said the committee looks at calendar-related issues with the intention of improving life for students and making small changes that still meet requirements.

“The dates are published well in advance, and the calendar varies year to year just because of the way dates fall,” Gnasso said. “I don’t see these as highly significant changes.”

Generally, Lehigh professors have not noticed the calendar changes and do not have an opinion one way or another because the length of class time is not impacted.

However, Kathy Olson, associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Communication, said this year’s winter break is advantageous for professors who want to use the extra time efficiently.

“For my purposes, it’s nice to get more sustained time for research during winter break,” Olson said.

Most students seem to be pleased with the earlier timing of pacing break. Rebecca Zittell, ’15, said having pacing break closer to the start of the school year is beneficial for first-year students who may want to return home during their first semester.

“I think moving pacing break a week earlier is a good decision because I remember being homesick during the first few months at Lehigh,” Zittell said. “It’s nice to go home and see your family and high school friends earlier if you’re having a harder time transitioning and adapting to college life.”

The earlier pacing break also affects student-athletes. Matt Carducci, ’16, is a member of Lehigh’s swim team and said the timing of pacing break works well with his schedule.

“The break fell at a very convenient time in the season for the team,” Carducci said. “Our first meet is this coming weekend, and it was great to go home and unwind in preparation for our upcoming meet.”

Most Lehigh students are looking forward to a longer winter break. An extended winter vacation means more time to relax over the holiday season, an opportunity to study abroad, travel with family or work part-time in their hometowns.

Panhellenic sororities at Lehigh participate in deferred formal recruitment, which means recruitment takes place in the last week of winter break before the beginning of the spring semester.

Maggie Boyle, ’15, assistant vice president of recruitment, said a longer winter break is a positive change.

“Since women come back early for recruitment, this gives everyone a chance to enjoy their break and relax a little bit before classes start again,” Boyle said. “This also gives women a better chance to study abroad in the winter. For women who wanted to go through recruitment in the past, it was difficult to do so.”

The last day of finals next spring is Wednesday, May 13. Many students do not seem concerned about the extension of the spring semester conflicting with their summer plans or potential job opportunities.

“Our school typically ends earlier than many other universities, and I do not think it will be a problem for people beginning summer jobs or internships,” Zittell said.

Although the changes to this year’s academic calendar may be minor, there has been an overall optimistic reaction on Lehigh’s campus.

“So often when we make changes, we hear about the problems they create,” Gnasso said. “To hear that it had some positive effect is nice feedback.”

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