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Academic Calendar Advisory Group

Former Provost Jonathan Holloway appointed a faculty-led workgroup charged with advising on the implementation of winter/spring calendar changes and optional flexible final exam administration, as well as with considering fall quarter calendar opportunities. This work concluded in 2019.

Changes to Winter/Spring Calendar Changes and Final Exam Administration

President Morton Schapiro and former Provost Holloway approved changes related to Spring Break, the date for Commencement, and final exam administration for adoption as soon as the 2019–20 academic year. The Faculty Senate unanimously endorsed these changes in spring of 2017. The University Registrar is leading implementation of the changes, which include:

  • Extending Spring Break— The change will add one day to spring break by making the first Monday of Spring Quarter a holiday and commencing classes on a Tuesday, which will result in one less day of class during the spring quarter and provide a 10-day break. This change will be implemented in Spring Quarter 2020. The purpose of this change is to help mitigate the long stretch of 23 weeks of winter and spring quarters from January through June, in order to decrease student stress.
  • Commencement Date —Commencement will be held closer to the end of classes and finals, with the goal of ending the school year earlier. This change will be implemented no earlier than Spring 2021.   
  • Final Exam Administration —The proposed changes aim to provide faculty and students more flexibility on the administration of exams to address challenges stemming from Northwestern’s late-ending academic year and the lack of central processes for requesting scheduling accommodations. The proposal includes the optional use—by faculty—of early or remote exams, and the establishment of a single, central protocol for those seeking to use these options, including the implementation of software to support this process. Implementation will work within school-based governance and policies.

Background on the Calendar Review

The potential changes to the academic calendar originated out of recommendations from the faculty-led Undergraduate Academic Experience Task Force, which in January 2016 made a number of recommendations intended to enhance the undergraduate academic experience at Northwestern. In the spring of 2017, leaders in the Office of the Provost and Faculty Senate, with support from the Office of Change Management, engaged the campus community in a renewed dialogue on the academic calendar, initiating a process to gather additional data on the underlying challenges with the current calendar and partner with the campus community to identify potential solutions. Together, they engaged 17 groups of faculty, students and staff through early spring 2017, resulting in the slate of proposed changes the Faculty Senate unanimously endorsed. Following the Faculty Senate’s endorsement, University staff have worked to identify potential pathways to implement the changes, which prompted leadership to approve some changes and appoint the Provost’s Academic Calendar Advisory Group.