Carleton to Adopt a New Academic Calendar

1 April 2019

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

I write today to share the exciting news that Carleton plans to adopt a revolutionary new academic calendar beginning with its 2020-2021 academic year. Already among a minority of academic institutions that follow a trimester calendar rather than a semester-based year, we will soon become the first American college to adopt a spring-summer-fall calendar. 

Under the innovative new trimester system, winter term will replace summer as the three-month hiatus in the College’s academic year.

This is a bold and unprecedented move. But we at Carleton have long prided ourselves on a willingness to challenge even the most basic assumptions about our institution—especially when it serves the best interests of our students, faculty, and staff.

This climate-sensitive calendar will dramatically reduce our carbon footprint and save the College millions of dollars in heating costs that will instead be applied to financial aid and academic initiatives. The change will also provide us with a new competitive advantage in recruiting outstanding students from warmer climates. 

The genesis of the new calendar came from a chance encounter I had with a prospective student this winter. I was crossing the campus in January on one of the coldest days of the Polar Vortex when I happened to meet a visiting student who’d become separated from an admissions tour group—visibly shivering while stopping to consult the campus map on an outdoor kiosk.

As I stepped forward to offer assistance, the visitor turned to me with a bewildered expression. “I’m from Reykjavik. How can it be so much colder here than Reykjavik?”

After escorting the prospective student to Sayles-Hill Campus Center to warm up with a complimentary hot chocolate and nourishing broth, I found myself wondering if strict adherence to a traditional academic calendar might be doing Carleton a disservice. I took the question to Tuesday Group, and we wisely decided to convene a College committee to consider the question—and were pleased to see that an unprecedented and enthusiastic consensus emerged from the committee after only two January meetings.

That in itself was a very good omen, because it’s vanishingly rare for a College committee to come to an agreement without a considerably longer deliberation process. Sometimes years. 

Encouraged by this rapid accord, we brought the proposal to the February meeting of Carleton’s Board of Trustees, who approved the unprecedented move. I wish to thank our Board Chair Wally Weitz, who was enthusiastically supportive of the adapted new calendar. “It simply made economic and competitive sense,” he notes. Although blizzard-related travel delays had prevented most of the trustees from participating in the vote, Wally proudly reports the four who were present were unanimous in their decision.

The College is planning a kickoff celebration and campus information session about the calendar in July, Minnesota’s warmest month. Further details will be released soon on the College’s website. 

Steve Poskanzer
April 1st, 2019

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