Request from Provost Chilton – Spring 2021 Academic Calendar Revision

UPDATE: Provost Chilton has provided the following revised memo to address faculty concerns. Given the significance and timing of this recommendation, we will conduct a vote using Zoom chat on Thursday, October 8, 2020. For those senators calling in, we will use a roll vote after we tally the chat responses.

On September 24, Faculty Senate Executive Committee received the following memo from Provost Chilton requesting an amendment to the spring 2021 academic calendar to help meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been introduced as a discussion item to Faculty Senate with the intention to vote on it as an action item on October 8. Given the impact of this request, we are collecting comments to pass to the provost prior to the October 8 meeting.
Senate Exec.


27 comments on "Request from Provost Chilton – Spring 2021 Academic Calendar Revision"
  1. Another thought related to the spring semester, which would help with classes taught across campuses, and to honor spring break time for research, might be to start the spring semester with 2 weeks online — similar to the end of fall semester (at least in Pullman)

    1. Spring break provides opportunities for all students on all campuses to go away. By returning to campus following spring break, students who potentially were exposed to coronavirus infection potentially bring that health risk back to campus. Cancelling spring break may provide a beneficial health context for students, faculty, staff on the Pullman campus, as well as community members.

      Vancouver, my campus, does not have campus housing. And so, we are not necessarily affected by a spring break migration and return of students. How will this suggested change benefit this campus, and/or others? Will we be expected/required to follow the Pullman schedule regarding centralized opening and closing dates for spring semester?

      Benefits for all campuses from this proposal perhaps need to be teased out through further discussion.

    2. I am concerned about changing the schedule. Though this is meant to be Pullman specific, changing the schedule for Pullman will have an impact across campuses as many courses are cross campus. Also, I am concerned because the non-Pullman campuses have very different contexts that need to be kept in mind. As Vancouver is a commuter campus, for example, the concerns of Pullman are not the same as ours. This decision would have a big impact on all campuses and this needs to be considered.

    3. I agree that starting the spring semester on-time but using remote online learning as needed could be a good plan to minimize disruption but maintain safety.

  2. While I understand the need for changing the schedule for the Pullman campus, doing so for the Vancouver campus makes no sense since we do not have the same student population. The average age of our student body, for example, is 26. Many of our students have children in schools with schedules keyed to ours. Already our students with children are stressed with home instruction. Not providing them with a longer spring break to help them catch up with home and school (not to mention jobs) would not be good for them.

  3. I will recommend to continue with current remote instruction into Spring-2021, as this brings structure to students rather than uncertainty, in particular for those 100, 200 level where population is large.

  4. Starting the semester online (the first two weeks) would allow time for establishing health protocols while also allowing for a spring break. If the decision is made to maintain spring break, perhaps consider aligning it with the local school district (if it is not already). This can help faculty and staff with dependent children.

  5. I’d like to ask the provost to consider that there may not be a need to tie the start of instruction to physical move-in to campus housing. If we start the semester remotely, as students are now accustomed to, the physical move-in can be safely staggered without disrupting the instruction schedule.

  6. After reviewing the reasoning and context for making this request, it makes more sense for it to be a campus wide decision, thank you.

  7. Issue 1 (delaying the start of spring semester), in my view, should be a campus-by-campus decision. Vancouver is dominated by commuting students, so it is a very different context. If the thinking is to delay so that we would go back to face-to-face instruction, then given the current experiments that have failed across the country, I would be opposed to that.

    Another important consideration – we have several cross-campus courses in our doctoral program, and the shifting of campus schedule at one location would immediately impact each of these courses. So the Pullman campus decision needs to be careful about unintended consequences such as this.

  8. The proposed change introduces a number of problems, not the least of which is synchronization of course offerings across campuses. If only Pullman changes their schedule then any student taking courses that do not originate with their home campus will essentially end up with an 18 week term, with start dates and finals that do not coincide and may indeed conflict with other responsibilities. If all campuses switch, then there will likely be problems at campuses such as Vancouver, which are non-residential and whose students often have already set schedules around work and family responsibilities that would be upended by the suggested change. If there is such concern for student, staff and faculty health and safety, than it makes more sense to retain remote instruction for the Spring term, rather than place people at risk.

  9. If this is for Pullman only, then it makes sense. WSU’s Spring break does not match or align with any of the local school districts Spring Breaks. Since faculty may not be able to travel out of country, and we are technically supposed to be working over Spring break, having an extended 3-4 day weekend gives a nice break. Remote instructions works well with our CON but we still have clinicals and simulations.

  10. The proposed schedule change, while only for the Pullman campus, potentially creates significant issues for students in courses that have participation from all campuses. On the Vancouver campus, students in PhD, EdD, and BA programs take courses that include students from Pullman, Spokane, and Tri-Cities.
    Additionally, our student population is non-residential and many are living at home, balancing the support of their school-age children with their own coursework. Many of our programs align breaks with K-12 breaks to accommodate student needs. Thus, the decision should at least be campus by campus.

  11. I believe that this proposal will have many negative implications for our students and I do not believe we should move forward with it.

  12. I think it would be helpful to consider the impact to students on our other campuses, as mentioned in some of the comments previously. I also think that maybe just being online for the first two weeks and allowing for increased testing on the Pullman campus, and obtaining those results, would be useful. The proposed shortened schedule would also mean the reduction of a week of class time, which could require additional accommodations to the courses faculty members may have been already working to prepare.

  13. As a clinical faculty on the Spokane campus, I am in favor of starting later and not having a spring break. This will give our students more time at their clinical sites. This fall semester has been greatly impacted by not having students go back to their clinical sites after the Thanksgiving break. We lost at least one week of clinical activities due to this restriction. It was also a slow start to the fall semester due to long on-boarding processes at clinical sites. If we had more time at the beginning of the semester to work on onboarding, that would be a benefit.

  14. I acknowledge the benefit to the Pullman campus of a delayed start, and also the wider benefits of students not traveling to and fro during spring break. That said, I share my colleague’s concerns above about applying these measures to all the campuses. In addition, I’d like to suggest that given the existing stresses on students of the current covid situation (which we are repeatedly asked to keep in mind), a semester (albeit slightly shortened) with no break may have some untoward psychological and emotional impacts.

  15. I predict that we will still be required to have mostly remote instruction through the rest of the academic year; even if we have a vaccine available, experts predict we will not yet contain the spread of the virus. I think it is a good idea to condense the semester.

    Since many courses include students from across campuses, I think the decision would cause problems if it is only for the Pullman campus. Whatever is decided, it should be consistent across campuses. Otherwise, Pullman students will either be unable to take courses that are offered on other campuses or miss two weeks of instruction. For this reason, I think it should be a campus wide decision, since this will impact courses offered across campuses.

    I know student parents have been very much disproportionately impacted and considering how to lighten the burden of these changes on them is very important. I don’t yet know whether the spring break at WSU already overlaps with K-12 instruction? Although some parents may be opting for the in-person instruction for K-12, some parents are doing remote instruction.

    (by the way, this comment box is very small, would be nice if someone in IT could make it bigger so we can read our entire comment; or maybe it is because I’m using Chrome?).

  16. While the proposal is primarily for Pullman, I keep hearing that the change would be system wide. There are serious implications for financial aid, and for veterans and student employees.

    Our student veterans receive a monthly housing allowance and it’s based on the days of instruction. If the spring semester starts two weeks later, they will go without benefits from Dec. 19 through January 24. Many of them already struggle with just receiving half a month in December and one week less in January. If they receive three weeks less, then they’ll be even more financially fragile.

    Financial Aid doesn’t disburse until the week before classes begin. If the start of the semester is delayed, our students who would typically receive a financial aid refund the first week of January, wouldn’t receive it until the third week.

    Having the semester start later also means our students who work on campus will lose a paycheck in January.

  17. To avoid confusion please add an explicit statement (bullet point) indicating that Spring Break will be eliminated. This was in the earlier version but now is only mentioned in the FAQ’s.

  18. These changes seem largely well considered. I’d just like to highlight that the late start date will eliminate some opportunities to engage students on social justice issues in the lead up to MLK Day. It also may impact WSU’s annual Martin Luther King Program (

  19. I support the idea of starting the Spring semester with 2 weeks online. It is easy to implement, allows staggered move-in for Pullman, but doesn’t require other campuses to change their schedules.

  20. I am trying to plan a course on the new schedule and would have preferred the semester to start on January 19, 2021 so that the TTh class I teach would have a full week in the first week. January 18 is Martin Luther King Day and I had already learned how to work around taking the Monday holiday that was built into the second week. Having a full week for TTh would be useful since it would not disrupt the structure of TTh courses taught before.

  21. Hello. This was shared with me but the President of ASWSU Global Campus, Gina Vasquez:

    As for the cancellation of Spring break, I’ll give you three perspectives. As a student who also works (ASWSUG is basically my job), I’m upset because that break is very much needed. When I get a break from coursework, it means I have one less thing to worry about and have a little bit more time for myself as sometimes I do feel that my time is not really mine, if that makes sense?

    As an ASWSU President, I completely understand the risk that COVID poses for students and it’s wise to keep them where they are to prevent the spread. This then brings up the question; if the threat that COVID poses has already been seen, why have students on campus at all and risk the health and safety of staff, faculty, and citizens of Pullman? I know that there is more to it than that and not all faculty are familiar with the online format along with how much work and preparation it takes to teach solely online. It just seems like we have seen enough devastation for a long enough period that decisions could have been made in a much more organized and thoughtful manner.

    Then, as the President of ASWSU Global Campus, it seems completely unfair to our students and the decision is very Pullman focused. GC has a diverse range of students, from high school graduates to adults near or in the third age stage of their lives. In between that there are parents, people working full time, people who work multiple jobs, etc. If they are already dealing with the stress of COVID in their everyday lives at home, it seems that taking away their well-deserved break will only add to the stress and poses risks to their mental health.

    What is most alarming is the lack of communication from administration on their intent to implement these changes. As a student leader, I do believe that I and the rest of SGC members should have been invited to the conversation instead of having to read it on the Daily Evergreen and go hunting for meeting minutes and agendas.

  22. For another perspective too, spring break and Thanksgiving break are the only times the online instructors get off. Those single day holidays that occur each semester do not even apply to the instructors (or students). We run 7 days a week. Where we get a break is those week long breaks, and they are much needed.

    Thank you.

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