The neap semester 
Pardon a cranky blog post.

Classes start this week. I am teaching two courses which I have taught before, so I am patching together syllabuses, pushing and pulling to make them fit. I am intentionally changing the courses some, in incremental ways. And the topics must be nudged to fit the calendar of this semester, to convert from topics grouped into two days a week (which I taught last time) to three, shorter days.

All of that is inevitable.

What is utterly evitable is the fact that this semester has 14 and a half weeks, which is a different total amount of time than last time I taught these courses. When I taught 17th and 18th Century Philosophy in Spring 2011, it was low tide for total hours of instruction with only 13 and a half weeks. So that course needs to either dwell on things for longer or have some extra material. When I taught Understanding Science last Fall, it was high tide with 15 and half weeks. So that course needs to sprint through some topics or drop something entirely.

I say it could be avoided, because it is the result of planning at the institutional level. Is oscillating semester length peculiar to UAlbany?

As a student, I never paid careful attention to the precise length of the semester. And there were few courses which I saw more than once. So I can't say whether it's a common phenomenon.

That would make me cranky too. At the 3 places where I have paid attention to this level of detail in the academic calendar, the semesters have been exactly the same length every time.


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