Lehigh’s academic calendar often differs from the schedules at other universities, and changes from year to year in an attempt to ensure that students have enough time to balance learning and rest.
Sometimes this results in Lehigh holding classes on days that are federal holidays. This year, the university had class on Labor Day as a result of constraints with the number of classes held during the fall semester, university registrar Emil Gnasso wrote in an email.
“Each semester requires 14 meeting days for each day of the week, not including breaks or the final exam periods,” Gnasso said. “This way each Monday lab has the same number of meeting days as say, a Wednesday lab.”
Both students and professors encounter problems when class is held on Labor Day, which is a national holiday. For students, visiting family on the holiday can be especially difficult because they have class during the day.
William Bulman, a professor in the history department, pointed out that professors with children encounter issues when class is held because their children do not have school, and yet there is no one to watch them.
Other universities often have fall breaks, and Lehigh was not alone in holding classes on Labor Day. Both Bucknell University and Lafayette College, schools which are also part of the Patriot League, have classes on Labor Day.
There is occasionally backlash from students and parents that class is held on the national holiday, “but the vast majority are very understanding when we explain the associated limitations and challenges,” Gnasso said.
Classes are not held Monday or Tuesday during pacing break, which traditionally occurs during the first or second week of October. Because of this, class is held on Labor Day to ensure that Monday classes meet 14 times during the fall semester.
“The naming of (pacing) break is before my time,” Gnasso said. “However, I have been told pacing break began as a day for students to catch up on work between their jobs at Bethlehem Steel and four o’clock quizzes.”
For each academic year, the registrar creates a draft of the semester calendar. The draft is then critiqued and subsequently approved by the university calendar committee, according to Gnasso. This committee is comprised of faculty from across campus who ultimately determine when the dates of the academic year fall. The academic calendars for the next three years can be found on the registrar’s website.
The committee also decided to add an extra week to winter break this year.
“The winter break is longer as a result of a decision by the calendar committee to delay the start of the Spring semester by one week,” Gnasso said.
The decision to extend vacation was made so students would have more time for projects between fall and spring semesters, as well as extended time for over the break programs such as Lehigh Silicon Valley. This year’s holiday break will begin Dec. 16 and end Jan. 25.