Addressing PLNU’s Bizarre Academic Calendar

In Latest News, Opinion by Riordan Zentler

PLNU has an unusual undergraduate academic calendar. Every semester, students and faculty alike discuss how odd it is to start each semester on a Tuesday, with a Monday schedule. Students end up at the wrong classroom at the wrong time, and professors have to maneuver their classwork schedule to accommodate the bizarre calendar.

Take LIT351, World Cinema as an example. This spring, Dr. James Wicks is teaching two sections of the popular class–one on Tuesday from 6:00 to 8:45 p.m., and another on Thursday at the same time. Desiring to keep both sections on the same weekly schedule “to keep [his] brain on straight,” Dr. Wicks had to cancel the first Thursday class entirely–otherwise the two sections would only align once Easter recess resulted in a Thursday cancellation, three-quarters of the way through the semester.

Additionally, classes that meet exclusively on Tuesdays miss the entire first week of class, which makes for a slow start.

According to Vice Provost for Academic Administration Dr. Holly Irwin, the rationale for the odd schedule is twofold.

“First,” she said, “factoring in days off, this action allows a balance of Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday classes.”

“Additionally, in the fall semester, the Monday allows one business day for returning students to ensure they have the necessary materials and in the spring semester affords a New Student Orientation for students joining PLNU.”

This is a true statement at its core. In the Fall 2017 semester, the result was 15 Mondays, 14 Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 13 Fridays–essentially 14 of each.

Spring semesters are a little more convoluted since PLNU’s academic planners have to juggle both Spring break and Easter recess. By giving the first Tuesday a Monday schedule, Spring 2018’s end result is 13 Mondays, 14 Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 15 Wednesdays.

Still, Fall could be made much less confusing for students and faculty both by including the first Monday, adding a Tuesday to Thanksgiving break, and moving the very arbitrary “Fall Break” to the start of a week rather than the end. No one minds skipping a Monday!

The spring semester’s calendar is a lot more difficult to address. I’ll freely admit that nothing I could come up with made for a very attractive schedule. It’s possible to create a balanced “14 of each day” calendar by including Monday on the first week, adding a Tuesday and Wednesday to Easter recess and removing Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

While PLNU is a private institution and isn’t required by law to take MLK Day off, it would be odd not to. The man himself gave a speech at PLNU’s Golden Gymnasium in 1964.

All that said, I’m strongly opposed to New Student Orientation ever taking the place of a potential school day. NSO is supposed to help freshmen and incoming transfers adapt to their new setting–but it’s easier to get into the swing of things by going about a normal day than by being bombarded with boatloads of new information.

Riordan Zentler is a senior majoring in journalism.