The University of Georgia can’t shorten the length of its semesters to match those of Georgia Tech and Georgia State University. Instead, the two Atlanta schools will have to lengthen theirs under revisions in the state Board of Regents policy on instructional time.
Semesters must have 15 weeks of instructional time, as defined by federal regulations, and those 15 weeks cannot include registration or final exams, according to language the board approved Wednesday.
The issue of semester length became an issue at UGA last year as faculty governance committees struggled to find a solution to UGA’s unusually early starting dates, and how to change that. The university started fall semester classes Aug. 14, before most U.S. colleges, including Tech and Georgia State, which began Aug. 22.
The University Council’s educational affairs committee found a way to make this fall semester start a little later, but the group continued to work to push semester starting dates back even more.
As they did, some sharped-eyed faculty noticed that while UGA didn’t count final exams as part of the required instructional time, other schools did.
After that, discussions on finding a way to begin fall semesters without cutting into summer internships and summer jobs turned away from solutions such as shortening UGA’s week-long Thanksgiving break to three days, more in line with other schools, or eliminating a one-day holiday UGA students get the Friday before the annual Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville.
UGA also starts spring semesters earlier than many schools, largely because of its five different summer school schedules, most importantly a separate “Maymester” option that begins and ends before other sessions do.
Instead of adjusting things like that, some faculty members argued, UGA should reduce the number of class days in semesters.
Ultimately, the University Council’s executive committee voted to send committee chair Janet Frick’s proposal on to the full council for a vote — to simply adopt the Georgia State calendar, adjusted to keep the football holiday.
But that move was forestalled when University System of Georgia administrators stepped in to say the Regents would settle it.
Now, it’s apparently Tech and Georgia State that will have to adjust.
According to a graphic UGA Associate Vice President for Instruction Bill Vencill showed the University Council Executive Committee last spring, UGA semesters include 74 days of instruction, vs. 70 at Georgia State, 71 at Georgia Tech and an average of 72 at schools the Regents have designated “peer and aspirational” institutions that UGA should compare itself to.
The new policy language won’t please faculty at UGA, much less the other schools, but it should end that particular argument.
“I think it clarifies what the length of the calendar should be,” said UGA Vice President for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav.
The only exceptions noted in the policy are for UGA’s law school and its College of Veterinary Medicine, and for Augusta University’s medical and dental schools.
The University Council’s educational affairs committee will try again this year to come up with a way to begin UGA fall and spring semesters on a schedule more in line with other universities in Georgia and the nation.