By Julia Ernst
The possibility of a fall break was resurrected at this week’s Lawrenceville Senate meeting.
According to SGA Vice President Brian Pawelko, a petition circulating at Westminster Choir College (WCC) to re-establish the days off, until this year, was standard on the Princeton campus sparked the discussion.
“They got rid of their fall break,” said Pawelko. “They have a petition going on over there to reinstate a fall break.”
Westminster’s SGA came to the Lawrenceville campus to discuss the issue.
“Their VP, Ed Whittle, came and spoke to the Senate,” said Pawelko. “The following week, we spoke to Westminster. We want the UAPC (University Academic Policy Committee) to further look into having a fall break.”
The joining of Rider and WCC in 1992 required many compromises between the two campuses, including this year’s unification of the semester calendars. This unification, which eliminated the fall break on the Princeton campus, is causing concern among faculty as well as students who feel that a fall break for both campuses should be considered.
“Alignment is good for interaction between the campuses, but it does pose challenges in terms of performance commitments,” said Joel Phillips, professor of Music Theory and Composition. “Lack of a break could mean that “WCC students will be performing off campus while classes continue, and this can put them at a disadvantage academically.”
The UAPC is in charge of setting the academic calendar, explained Dr. Jeff Halpern, chief negotiating officer of the Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). This year, a one-time decision was made to shorten the length of the break between semesters to accommodate choirs, but the UAPC could eventually decide to reinstate the WCC fall break. Halpern also said that there are three options for adding a fall break on the Lawrenceville campus: a shorter semester; finishing the fall semester after Christmas break; or starting before Labor Day. However, the latter would require negotiation with the union, because professors’ contracts begin Sept. 1.
Phillips said that aligning the calendars serves a practical purpose for both campuses.
“Calendars should be aligned if we are to function as a University,” said Phillips. “Westminster should continue to pursue the world-class performance opportunities, but creative ways to meet those commitments should be employed so that students can meet both their academic and performance requirements.”
Westminster sophomore Elise Brancheau said that a fall break provides WCC students with much-needed relief.
“Touring, and performing in general, are essential parts of being a student at Westminster, but they do add a significant amount of stress to our already hectic lives,” said Brancheau. “Having a fall break would not only give us time to perform without worrying about classwork, but it would also give us something to work towards, something to look forward to, a ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’”
Pawelko said the purpose of raising the issue at a Rider Senate meeting was to gather feedback from Lawrenceville students and work with the administration.
“Obviously, with next year looming, they have to make the schedule,” said Pawelko. “Since it’s so complicated, we just hoped the UAPC would look further into it. I’m hoping to elicit a response from the administration.”
Students on both campuses have opinions about the possibility of a fall break and what it would mean for the course of the first semester of the year.
Brancheau said that the fall break could be beneficial for Rider and WCC students.
“Even one day of fall break gives our minds, bodies and voices significant relief,” said Brancheau. “Going for months without a break can be damaging and disheartening.”
Lawrenceville junior Dhwani Shelat had a different view.
“We start late and end early, so working out breaks is difficult,” Shelat said. “If you give more holidays, that builds up pressure for faculty and students. Thinking practically, it doesn’t work.”
A report on the status of fall break is expected at the next Senate meeting, Tuesday, April 1, 11:30-12:30 in Sweigart Auditorium.