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Change the Foltian Calendar

Carol Folt’s only visible legacy at Dartmouth (as opposed to hundreds of behind-the-scenes mistakes) is the new calendar. It allows students to finish fall-term exams before Thanksgiving so that they may celebrate the holiday with their families without having to return to Dartmouth for examinations. As a result of the extended Christmas break, the College saves a marginal amount of money on energy.

But at what cost? The lengthy six-week break between the end of fall term and the start of winter term is only achieved by the further compression of our already-tight quarter system. Students dislike the new schedule for a wide range of reasons. Time pressure during and between terms is higher than previously. The final football game of the season falls in the middle of final exams (not so great for 100+ players). And international students, most of whom can’t afford to go home for Christmas, are marooned in Hanover for what seems like forever in December. Here’s a typical comment — from the Improve Dartmouth website:

Actual Reading Periods.jpg

Phil should get busy revising the current calendar to allow for longer reading periods and more substantial between-term breaks. The first step would be to have fall term extend until mid-December, say December 17 this year. That end-of-term date still offers students and staff an eighteen-day break between the fall and winter terms. Then take the three weeks that you have gained and make sure that all three other terms are of sufficient length. You might even give some extra days to the period between the end of summer term and the start of fall term so that Freshman Week is a full seven days.

This set of ideas is not rocket science. If the administration’s goal is to provide the best educational experience possible, the calendar should be organized with that goal in mind — not just in an effort to save some energy and allow some students to travel less. What are our real priorities?

Addendum: If the administration wants to save money, how about cutting the College’s costs so that we spend per student as much as Brown, but no more? If we did so, there is more than $200 million/year to be had, money that then could be used to cut tuition and make many other worthwhile expenditures that could improve a Dartmouth education.

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