Will U. of Michigan students be home for Christmas?

Students at the University of Michigan are outraged over the school’s newly released 2015-2016 academic calendar which squeezes students hoping to get home for Christmas.

The University of Michigan’s fall 2015 academic calendar has scheduled exams to end on Dec. 23 and classes to resume in the spring on Jan. 6. In retaliation to the calendar, students wrote a petition to change exam dates claiming it’s an obstruction of religious holidays, and they would be forced to pay for more expensive flights home for the break.

State law prohibits schools in Michigan from starting their academic year prior to Labor Day. This year, Labor Day falls on Sept. 7 which put the UM Calendar Committee in the bind when determining the university’s semester schedule. Since the school was forced to start later in the fall, exam dates had to be extended to Dec. 23.

“I don’t think it violates any student freedoms or religious rights, but it does hurt them economically. Students have to decide if it is economically doable to go home over break,” Grant Strobl, a freshman political science major at UM, told Campus Reform.

Strobl claims that since approximately 45 percent of UM students are from Michigan, the policy does not affect a lot of students. The foreign and out-of-state students, though, could face economic or scheduling difficulties in traveling home over break.

“Seeing in the past, as I had one of the latest finals last year, and given the numerous amounts of flight delays and travel expenses and everything...that time adds up in regard to cutting out time from seeing your family,” Sydney Brown, an out-of-state sophomore in UM’s school of Literature, Science, and the Arts, said in an interview with the Michigan Daily.

Six undergraduate students at UM founded an organization called Crush the Calendar in order to amend the fall 2015 academic calendar. On Thursday, four members of the Crush the Calendar team presented their petition with over 5000 signatures to the UM Board of Regents.

The university’s Office of the Provost notes that, “Although the University of Michigan, as an institution, does not observe religious holidays, it has long been the University's policy that every reasonable effort should be made to help students avoid negative academic consequences when their religious obligations conflict with academic requirements.”

“It is good to hear there was no intention to infringe on religious or federal holidays like Christmas...nor was this an attempt to secularize anything [at UM],” Strobl stated in a phone interview with Campus Reform.

The Board of Regents is willing to change the fall schedule, however, students must be willing to cut back on or eliminate their fall break Strobl told Campus Reform. The next step for Crush the Calendar is to conduct a survey and see if students are willing to get rid of fall break to get the exam schedule moved to earlier in December.

“Personally, I like my fall study break,” Strobl said, but “it’s a big decision.”

UM has a 72 hour policy during which staff and faculty must post exam results at the end of each semester. For those with exams in the days immediately preceding Christmas, complying with this timeline would mean working over a federal holiday. “If I were a professor I would be upset,” said Strobl, “[but] we have to see both the pros and cons.”

“In the broader scheme of things it could be avoided if there were a policy or legislative change,” Strobl argued. “The requirement that we need to start after Labor Day needs to change at the university level.”

In the fall of 2014, exams took place from Dec. 12-19. As of Feb. 20, the petition had just shy of 5500 signers.

Author of the petition, Lauren Siegel, did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BethanySalgado