Winter Quarter begins despite federal holiday

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(Graphics by Jacqueline Lin | The DePaulia)

A day after New Years, lugging suitcases of freshly cleaned clothes or holiday presents, school resumed. Jan. 2 was a federal holiday for the rest of the country, but not for DePaul. 

The reasoning behind the early start date goes back to accreditation requirements. The academic calendar, which was published more than a year ago, listed Jan. 2 as the first day of school.

“The calendar, which goes through a review process, must comply with accreditation requirements for the number of contact hours in a course in order to earn course credits,” a statement from the university said. “Given the prevalence of Monday holidays, we needed to ensure enough Monday instructional days in the Academic Calendar to meet accreditation obligations.”

DePaul is accredited in part  by the Higher Learning Commission, which sets various criteria core components for a university to be accredited.

That didn’t completely justify the decision for some students. One of Khaela Correa’s  classes was cancelled the first day of the quarter. To make matters worse, she wasn’t notified until she reached the building and saw a note by the elevator. Her classes later in the day were not cancelled, but she said there were at least five people missing from each.

“I was angry because I thought it was ridiculous that we had to come into school anyway today and (it was) super inconvenient for out of town students who may have rushed back to school to make it to this morning’s class,” Correa, DePaul junior,  said. “ I did not hear of any other college who had to come in today and it’s just as unfair to students as it is to faculty.”

North of DePaul, Northwestern University didn’t start school until Jan. 3. University of Chicago, in Hyde Park, also didn’t start its winter quarter until Jan. 3.

For DePaul, the academic calendar is set up in advance and then generally left alone unless there are errors that need to be corrected.

Rev. James Halstead, C. M., who teaches Religion 103 and an Honors class, considered the start date “awful,” but understands why the decision was made.

“It was a federal holiday for God’s sake. I suppose to get the most of the quarter it made sense. I don’t want to lose two classes or teach on the Monday of exam week, so I guess this is the best of the bad options,” Halstead said. “I was shocked (that my students still came), they were all there. They were less than cheery because the day before was New Years, but they were all there.”

The early start date also posed problems for commuters. Metra was still operating on its holiday schedule. There was also no service on the Metra Southwest line, which covers areas in Southwest Chicago, the Heritage Corridor, which serves Joliet and neighboring areas, and the North Central line, which serves Lake Villa and Prospect Heights among other stops. This meant students and faculty who take the commuter train service may not have been able to make it back to school Jan. 2.

“I understand the issues with the calendar and the fact that we also have a Monday off this quarter but I would hope that the administration would be lenient on those who had genuine troubles attending school today because of traveling,” Correa said. “It was a slight annoyance or inconvenience to me, but I feel bad for those who genuinely couldn’t make it today and tried.”