This academic year was the first with a fall break on the calendar. Even though officials carved out the time for students to relax, fall break may not be the best way for them to do that.
While fall break is officially on the calendar for next fall and students have continually argued for a fall break, citing mental health concerns, the break’s short duration makes it difficult for some students to go home. And the stress of travel for those who can make it home might mean the break isn’t very relaxing. Even though I live in upstate New York, I found that spending a significant portion of two days traveling was not relaxing.
Pennsylvania State University is one university that doesn’t have a fall break and instead gives students a week off for Thanksgiving. This alternative to a fall break is more effective, as students who live far away have the chance to go home to spend more time with family and they have more time to relax before finals.
GW should eliminate fall break and attach the two extra days to Thanksgiving break. More than 15 percent of current freshmen are international students and other students live in places far from D.C. Thanksgiving break only gives students three days at home, so those who have to fly may opt to stay in D.C. because of travel time. Travel expenses, like plane tickets, are often more expensive around the holidays. Because students can’t leave for Thanksgiving break until the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, travel costs are substantially higher than they would be the weekend before. And if students can’t afford to travel, they may have to stay on campus for the break’s duration.
Many students skip their Monday and Tuesday classes the week of Thanksgiving to go home the weekend before, making some classes pointless for those who do attend. This year, one of my professors did not take attendance that Tuesday and others canceled classes knowing that few students would attend or wanting to spend time with their own families.
Although students have argued for a fall break for many years now, the break is even shorter than Thanksgiving break, so many students still couldn’t go home. And students whose parents came for Colonials Weekend may have found it unnecessary to go home to see family again a week later. The poor spacing of the break and the weekend of events resulted in a situation in which parents either chose not to come for the weekend or students chose not to go home for the break.
A longer Thanksgiving break isn’t just better financially for students, but would also give students some more time to relax before finals. Students could catch up on readings, get a head start studying for especially difficult classes and begin the many final papers they will have due in the following weeks.
Some may argue that students need a mental break and should not have to wait for Thanksgiving. They don’t have to wait. GW gives its students Labor Day off in early September which gives students a three-day weekend and eases the transition from summer to classes.
A week-long Thanksgiving break would allow students to be with their family for the holiday and give them time to catch up on reading and assignments before finals. Eliminating fall break would allow the University to keep the same amount of instruction days, while giving students a more effectively placed break.
Kelly Skinner, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.