I’ve now worked at five universities, including one on the quarter system. As a student at Princeton as well as at Yale and Harvard, I felt that my Princeton experience at the Woodrow Wilson School (MPA *95) was by far the most stressful of the three where purely academic matters were concerned. Having finals after Christmas definitely affected my time on the holidays, and not only that but it left me a little adrift once I returned to campus.
That said, the truly important thing in any calendar system that the faculty may choose to implement is that it get students done with their spring finals by Memorial Day. This is important because any hangover into June does impact the opportunities students have to do many programs around the country. As an educational search consultant and someone who has worked in a quarter-system school where finals don’t end until mid-June, I can definitely say that any overhang into June is a terrible thing for students.