What’s the deal with… GW not having Columbus Day off?

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Yes, we all know Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas by accident, and today he has a whole day dedicated in his honor.

Every second Monday in October, thousands of people across the country take a day off from school or work to remember the day when the Pinta first spotted land in the Western Hemisphere. So why doesn’t GW recognize Columbus Day, a federal holiday, when most of your friends at other schools have the day off?

Popular rumor on campus has it that the GW academic calendar is contingent on the federal government’s calendar – that the University only gives days off when the government does. But University Registrar Elizabeth Amundson said GW’s calendar is actually created independently of the federal government to “meet the needs of our students and faculty.”

Amundson said GW does not cancel classes on Columbus Day because there are too many holidays that fall on a Monday, such as Labor Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President’s Day, disproportionately disrupting the number of Monday classes. Often, the University holds a “designated Monday” at the end of the semester to make up for the Monday classes lost to national holidays.

“The calendar for each semester is created to first meet the academic needs of our students, by establishing up to 14 weeks of class time,” Amundson said, adding that the GW calendar is not something merely thrown together, but is “a long, thoughtful process.”

If GW did give into student demands for a day off today, the University would require that more Monday classes be made up at the end of the semester, cutting into reading days and winter break, Amundson said. So having classes on Columbus Day is the trade-off.

“Students have clearly expressed interest in retaining the reading days in the academic calendar prior to final exams,” she said.

Like Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day is another holiday on which the University holds classes, in exchange for taking off the Friday after Thanksgiving. Amundson said the swap allows students and faculty to spend a longer weekend at home with friends and family.

-Megan Marinos

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