It is easy to complain about break once it's over. If you listen to students around campus, it seems like Fall Break wasn't long enough—no one got in quite as much work, sleep, family time, or fun as he or she wanted to. But the opposite is actually true. Far from being too short, Fall Break is two days too long. Currently, Fall Break gives students and faculty Monday and Tuesday off from class in early October. A month later, the College adjourns for three days during Thanksgiving Break. These breaks ought to be consolidated into one, week-long vacation at Thanksgiving.
While a large portion of students hail from just-outside-of-Boston, many do not. For those students that must travel farther to get home, making the trip for one—let alone both—of these "vacations" can be a burden. Cost, travel time and jet lag all make the journey draining, strenuous and tiresome—the opposite of what the break is intended for. We should not continue to inconvenience students from the opposite coast and other countries where the admissions office is actively recruiting. And it must be hard for their parents as well, especially those of students who cannot make it home, above all, for Thanksgiving.
By combining the two vacations, a much higher percentage of students will be able to make it back for the holiday that we believe is more important: Thanksgiving. And while they are surrounded by family and loved ones, they might get a chance to relax, too. The two-break situation is academically challenging for students and faculty alike. Keeping the two breaks separate provides two opportunities for what is known as "break creep," the drop-off in attendance and classroom focus on the final day before a break. Students often skip that last day to get more time at home, a phenomenon that would be much less common if they had a 10-day Thanksgiving Break.
The amount of homework assigned over each of the two short breaks renders them hardly breaks at all. Quite often, professors take advantage of these extended weekends to assign lengthy papers and substantial projects, forcing us to hit the books while back at home. What is the point of having a few days without class if we spend those days working harder than ever? If we had one week-long break, professors would be more likely to respect it for what it is—a vacation—rather than to see the additional time as an opportunity to assign additional reading. And let's face it: Professors need a vacation too.
Combining the two breaks is also in the interest of the College's commendable goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2020. In the 2009 Climate Matters Contest, Associate Professor of Psychology Paul Schaffner proposed the "Consolidated Fall Break Program," because moving Fall Break from its current location to the Monday and Tuesday of the Thanksgiving week would "lower greenhouse gas emissions by considerably reducing student travel to and from campus."
There are those on campus who advocate maintaining the status quo. If Fall Break were allocated toward a longer Thanksgiving Break, it would mean three months with no vacation, and some argue that that is too long. But think of what an entire week off would mean when we need it most. Having extra time at Thanksgiving is more valuable than enjoying some freedom in October; it would provide a crucial opportunity to catch up on rest before the crush of end-of-term finals, papers and projects.
Change is possible. Until 2001, classes were in session on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Break. Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) changed this arrangement by submitting a faculty-approved proposal that break begin after the end of classes on Tuesday. Why not try consolidating the breaks? Even if we ultimately decide that separate breaks are better, we could say so with confidence. We encourage BSG to affect tangible change for students by pursuing a similar avenue in this situation.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Claire Collery, Nick Daniels, Piper Grosswendt, Zoe Lescaze and Seth Walder.