Amended Academic Calendar for 2020-2021 — Updated 10.29.20

Update, October 29, 2020.

In response to feedback from several constituencies, we are going to make some changes to the Spring 2021 academic calendar. The Academic Calendar page on line and the Registrar’s Google calendar will be updated within 24 hours. We will make the updates in Self-Service before the end of this week. The summary of these changes is as follows.

  1. No changes to Spring 2021 Module 1, the remote three-week term, so the Spring 2021 semester still starts on Tuesday, January 19, 2021.
  2. Spring Module 2, the in-person twelve-week term, will now start one day later than before, on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. This should not affect move-in.
  3. There will be two, one-day, midweek breaks in Module 2, on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, and Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
  4. The last day of classes will now be Wednesday, May 12, 2021; the final examination period will be Monday, May 17 through Thursday, May 20, 2021.
  5. There is no change to the date of Commencement, Saturday May 22, 2021, but we will not be able to hand out live diplomas as we usually do.

Context & Rationale: When we changed the AY 2020-2021 academic calendar over the summer, we did not fully consider the length of the gap between the last day of final examinations (which was a Monday) and Commencement (Saturday). After consulting with the Allegheny College Health Agency, we believe that this number of days with no schedule of activities to keep students occupied represents a potentially significant public health concern.

We also made a conscious choice to not include any mid-semester breaks, other than weekends. We did that to minimize the amount of time we were all on campus and because we were concerned about the effects of long weekend breaks on public health. Since that time, a couple of things have happened — 1) students have more than earned our trust as being all in on the Gator Pledge and public health practices. We know this is hard, but we have been so impressed with the adaptability and fortitude of the student body. 2) And yet what we are doing is crushingly hard. We have heard from students and faculty alike that they need breaks and we think we both can and should accommodate that request for Spring 2021.

The solution adopted here — adding two midweek break days to Spring 2021 — reflects both of those concerns.

We have deliberately gone with midweek breaks to avoid the “long weekend” phenomenon and because the construction of the semester needs to follow certain federal guidelines, and doing it this way allows us to only add a couple of days to the semester and still have Commencement on the planned day.

There is one big ramification of this — we cannot hand out actual diplomas at Commencement on May 22. It is usually an absolute whirlwind to get grades in from faculty, review degree audits, determine Latin honors, and ask the Faculty to vote on the graduating class (all of which needs to happen before diplomas can be handed out), and there is no way to make that happen with a semester than ends the Thursday before a Saturday Commencement. Diplomas would be mailed to students starting a week or so after Commencement. Diploma covers would still be handed out at Commencement as usual. Many institutions arrange Commencement and diplomas this way, but Allegheny has not.

Respecting the Breaks: Breaks from class only work as effective breaks if we do not fill the time they offer us with other activities. Therefore, the Provost has asked that departments and programs not schedule programming or meetings on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, and Tuesday, April 13, 2021, and that to the extent possible faculty plan their course schedules such that students do not need to use the breaks to catch up on homework and faculty do not need to use the days to catch up on grading or course prep. i.e., if at all possible, we urge you to treat these two days as actual breaks.

Timing: There are several reasons for making this change now, the biggest of which is the proximity of registration for Spring 2021, which starts on Monday, November 2. Making these changes to the semester dates before students enroll in courses is significantly easier than after. In addition, students, their families, and employees deserve to have this information as soon as possible, in case it changes anything about their planning for the next semester. Finally, even though we are not making changes to the calendar for Fall 2020, we are listening and adapting, and hope that the knowledge of these changes for Spring 2021 will bring a small sense of relief now and looking ahead to the future.

Please let us know if you have questions and good luck with the last weeks of the Fall 2020 semester.

Best Regards,
Christopher Bakken, Frederick F. Seely Professor of English & Chair of Curriculum Committee
Ian Binnington Dean of Curriculum & College Registrar


June 3, 2020

On Thursday May 28, the Allegheny College faculty voted to change the academic calendar for 2020-2021. You can see the full calendar at this link. Some of the details surrounding deadlines remain to be worked out, but we wanted you to have as much information as we could give you, as early as we can give it to you.

Fall 2020: The fall 2020 semester will begin on August 31 with 12 weeks of on-campus instruction until November 20, when most students will leave campus. The semester will resume on November 23 with a short period of strategically planned remote instruction followed by remote final exams. Classes will end on December 4 and exams will end on December 11. Students will complete the courses for which they are currently registered (typically four courses, 16 credits). There is no fall break and Thanksgiving Break will be as originally scheduled. The Dean of Students Office is planning for a rolling move-in beginning mid-August to allow for small numbers of students moving into each residence hall each day with the goal of all students moved in before August 31. We will be back in touch with more details about move-in as our plans develop.

Spring 2021: The spring 2021 semester will begin January 19 remotely with a three-week Module 1 (plus final exams) with one course taken (4 credits) followed by a 12-week on-campus Module 2 that begins February 22 during which the typical student will take three courses (12 credits). Classes will end on May 7 and exams will end on May 17. Commencement will be held on Saturday, May 22. Registration for both modules will take place before the end of the Fall semester, as usual.

Most students will leave campus after November 20 and will return in time for Module 2 classes to start in the Spring on February 22.

This revised calendar has the advantage of having as few students as possible on campus during peak flu season (mid-November through early February). The spring semester calendar introduces the opportunity for an innovative and creative three-week intensive course in January and reduces the student course load at one time.

This plan was developed by the Curriculum Committee with significant input from additional faculty, staff, and students. The Curriculum Committee is a standing committee of the College and includes members of the administration, faculty, staff, and students. Members of Allegheny Student Government were consulted in the planning process and a Zoom call was held for continuing students on Tuesday 26 May to gather feedback before the Faculty voted on the proposal.

We know you will have questions about the ramifications of this change — about billing for room and board, waivers for students to remain on campus after Thanksgiving or during the Module 1 classes, about move-in, and a whole host of other things. These questions are important and we will be providing answers as we finalize details over the next few weeks. Please look out for additional e-mails, posts to My Allegheny, and Q&A webinar opportunities like those held for continuing students on Tuesday 26 May and for new first-year and transfer students on Sunday 31 May. There will be other such opportunities as the summer progresses.

If you have questions about the academic calendar revisions, please contact

Ian Binnington, Ph.D.
Dean of Curriculum & Registrar
Associate Professor of History & Black Studies