By EMILY LLERENA ’18
Many professors assign long-term projects or have tests right after Thanksgiving break. Is this OK? Should Thanksgiving break be a more “assignment-free zone” so that students can spend time with their families? Or should Thanksgiving break be longer to accommodate these assignments?
This past Thursday, Trinity students received an email from Tim Cresswell, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, concerning the upcoming Thanksgiving break. The email’s purpose: to refresh students on the school’s position regarding class attendance on the eve of an academic break. Students, he reminds us, are not meant to miss classes for any reason besides a “health or personal situation.” Though the email is keen to point out that only a “handful” of students have seemed to misinterpret the school’s policy and they are addressing a “minority,” many students leave campus before the assigned vacation dates. While I am hesitant to disagree with Dean Cresswell, I can’t help but sympathize with the countless Bantams that have already fled the coop.
Thanksgiving break should be the time for students to catch their breath as they prepare for finals. Unfortunately, it is everything but that. Perhaps I hold bias as a student myself, but our Thanksgiving break seems entirely too short. For most college students mid-November already brings on an onslaught of mixed emotion. The fall semester is quickly coming to an end, and nearly everyone is on a time crunch. Midterms are wrapping up in time for final assignments to start cropping up. Even professors are in a rush to meet deadlines for grading papers, projects, and tests. It is palpable in the air on campus: everything smells like stress, anxiety, and pumpkin-spiced flavoring. It seems as though students have been counting down the days and hours, until they can get a slight reprieve.
Thanksgiving break needs to be a time for students to counter the stress brought upon by school assignments with relaxation, food, and family. By this point in the semester, students deserve to put down their books, even for a few days, to see family that they may not have seen since the start of the semester. This year, however, Thanksgiving break is marked on Trinity’s Academic Calendar as falling between the dates of Wed. 23 to Sun. 27, which means only three days of classes are cancelled. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to manage travel, schoolwork, and holiday plans in that short amount of time.
The holidays, though enjoyable, aren’t all fun and games. They certainly have stresses of their own. While many students do live relatively close by – we all know those kids who live “right outside of Boston” – travel isn’t as easy for a portion of Trinity students. Thanksgiving is notoriously known for its traffic delays and expensive fares. Many have to spend hours in a car, train, bus, or plane before they can see their family members and eat their turkey. The short length of this vacation makes it nearly counterproductive. Students don’t just get a “break,” they also get even more stress as they now try to balance travel, travel expenses, and schoolwork within such a narrow time frame.
I’m not arguing that Thanksgiving break should be an assignment-free zone or that professors should lighten course work around the holiday; we aren’t attending this prestigious school to be babied. My goal is simply to point out how inconvenient the short time frame we have to work with is. This complaint isn’t exclusive to Trinity either. Other college campuses have also voiced their opinions on having such a short Thanksgiving break as well. In 2010 the Bowdoin Student Government met to discuss lengthening the vacation. In a piece written on the subject for The Bowdoin Orient, a statement claims the three-day break is “geographically and economically discriminatory.” The quote comes from the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the time, Jordan Francke ’13, and he couldn’t have been more correct. A Thanksgiving break this short just puts more of a strain on students, both on their minds and in their wallets, leaving them feeling the opposite of relaxed when they return.
I completely understand that the plans of students leaving early to get to their various break destinations do not coincide with the school’s policy with attendance. This, of course, is nonnegotiable. I will suggest, however, that the administration consider lengthening Thanksgiving break. Professors shouldn’t, and don’t, lighten the work load around this time of year, so it would certainly raise morale if the students were able to have a little more time at home to work on them. That, combined with the money students would save by having more flexibility regarding travel arrangements, would have students returning to campus feeling well rested and more than ready to tackle finals.