Just imagine what having a fall break would mean. Having a Monday and Tuesday off in mid-October would give us a four-day weekend to recharge the batteries. It is a luxury that we currently do not have. Instead, we start school in early September and don’t have a day off — for weeks — until late November when Thanksgiving rolls around. No Columbus Day. No Veterans Day. Those of us who have been around a while will remember a time when not even the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was a day off. Now, discussions and debate about a fall break have once again been prompted by meetings of the Princeton and Lawrenceville SGAs.
A fall break would give us the opportunity to go apple picking, take a trip to Maine or upstate New York to see the colorful autumn leaves, watch reruns of horrible yet addicting reality shows or simply enjoy some well-deserved downtime. Resident students would get the chance to enjoy a home-cooked meal and have their laundry done, and neatly folded, by parents. The studious ones would use the time to get ahead on papers due at the end of the semester. Professors would get the chance to grade their mountains of papers or spend some quality time with family. To be honest, many of us would blow off the school work.
Whatever one decides to do with the four glorious days off is beside the point. What matters more is giving students and faculty a chance to breathe in the jam-packed 13-week semester schedule that leaves many of us feeling burnt out well before we chow down on mashed potatoes and turkey.
In an effort to unite our two campuses, the University merged the academic calendars, taking away the extended weekend the Princeton campus had enjoyed for many years. That raised the question of what is meant by the term “break,” as many Westminster Choir College (WCC) students hit the road to break a leg. While aligning the calendars made logical sense, it hit a sour note especially for WCC students who used this time to perform and recover from such events.
When it comes down to it, Rider is behind the eight ball compared to other colleges and universities. The College of New Jersey provided a four-day fall break in October 2007 and will do so again in the 2008-2009 academic year. Seton Hall grants its students a Friday off in October, making for a brief but undoubtedly splendid three-day weekend. At the more generous end of the spectrum is Princeton University, which incorporates a weeklong fall break into its academic calendar. In exchange, Princeton has a semester that commences in early to mid-September and ends with final examinations in mid-January.
Many of us would be happy with something in between what Seton Hall and TCNJ offer their student bodies. But implementing a fall break isn’t as easy as blocking it off on a calendar and packing our bags. Sacrifices will have to be made to make this vacation more than the dream many of us have been yearning for. It would require either shortening the semester; starting it earlier; or extending it beyond Christmas. It’s a decision that will have to be made not only by the University Academic Policy Committee but also the Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors, since an earlier start to the semester would require contract negotiations. Many professors are likely to balk about any talk of returning to campus before Labor Day, which would shortchange the opportunity to squeeze in a little more summer vacation and raise the complication of a national holiday interrupting the first week.
The results of a survey conducted by The Rider News of 191 students on both campuses show a sharp division. Sixty-five percent of Lawrenceville students were opposed to adding a fall break, while 61 percent of those at Princeton were in favor. “I would rather work straight through in order to avoid starting in the summer and to ensure getting out before Christmas,” said one Lawrenceville student. On the other hand, students on the Princeton campus replied to the survey that the time off allows them to take part in ensembles and squeeze in some time off.
Hopefully, Rider will soon sing along to the tune we all know from the KitKat commercials and “Gimme a break.”
Written By Opinion Editor, Jamie Papapetros