Students wonder why Columbus Day is no holiday

While students from American and Georgetown universities will be playing football and strolling the Mall on Oct. 10, students here will probably be doodling in the margins of their notebooks, wondering why they get three vacation days during the fall.

American University and Georgetown University have no classes on Oct. 10 – Columbus Day weekend. But this year, as in past years, GW only reserved Labor Day and two days for Thanksgiving break as holidays during the fall semester. Six days are reserved during the spring semester with no classes. University officials said the calendar must be structured this way to ensure the semester ends at a reasonable date in December.

“Including all religious holidays in the academic calendar would create an impossible situation,” said Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning. “If we tried to include them all, the fall semester would probably end in February and the spring semester in June.”

A committee of faculty, two student representatives and University administrators formulate the academic calendar several years in advance. Linebaugh chairs the committee and said it works to create a 14-week calendar with an equal number of each of the five weekdays.

“The committee’s main objective is to ensure that GW’s standards for number of class sessions are maintained in the calendar,” Linebaugh said.

Linebaugh said the year used to begin as early as Aug. 25 or 26. This year’s first day of classes was Aug. 31; one week into the school year students had one of their three days of holiday for the semester.

“Until several years ago, the academic year began a few days earlier,” Linebaugh said. “Then, the decision was made to start the semester on September 1, unless that day fell on the weekend or Labor Day. The reason the year starts so early is to be able to finish with fall semester before December 22.”

Some students said that while they enjoy having a day off during the first week of school, they would prefer to have it off later in the semester.

“I think it’s a little weird that we don’t have Columbus Day weekend off while other schools do,” freshman Agnes Malatinszky said. “I know the school has the responsibility to fit in a certain amount of days and such, but it’s just odd that we are not granted that same vacation time as other schools.”

While some GW students may like to have more days off during the school year, freshman Aaron Tyner said he just takes advantage of whichever days off he does have.

“It would be good to get a lot of this homework out of the way,” Tyner said, “There aren’t that many people around because of Labor Day, so it’s quiet, and I’m just taking advantage of that.”

Though they are not present on the academic calendar, most commonly observed religious holidays serve as legitimate excuses for students and staff to be excused from classes.

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