The biggest change from high school that I noticed as a first year last fall was the different schedule. In high school, I was in class for six hours a day, five days a week. In college, I'm in class for three hours a day, four days a week. A suburban kid through and through, it's not often that I feel directly affected by a national issue. As a college student, however, it's hard to look at the national education debate and not feel affected.

The year consists of 52 weeks. We are in school for 27 of them. America must be on the cutting edge in education if we wish to maintain our position as a global leader in the future. Why shouldn't Bowdoin take the initiative and lead the way towards educational reform? Bowdoin is a top-notch school, but we should always be looking for ways to make it radically better. There is always room for improvement.

The single most obvious change that Bowdoin could make to improve the sum of our education is to simply give us more of it. As enjoyable as the long breaks are, having three months off for summer vacation and an additional month for winter break is ludicrous. I propose that the school year be extended by one month, bringing the school year to a total of 31 weeks—still five weeks shorter than the conventional high school calendar.

Imagine how much more we could do in an additional two weeks per semester. You could read two more books in an English class, or do an extra...I don't know what in a math class. Think about it—you've probably learned a lot in the last two weeks.

In thinking about this idea, I talked to a number of professors, all of whom brought up the same concern: research. Between classes, preparing for classes, office hours, grading papers and working with students on independent study projects, a professor doesn't have a great deal of time to do his or her research. Instead, they rely on our long breaks to do this other important aspect of their jobs.

I have a solution. Hire more professors and reduce each of their teaching responsibilities. Professors have to teach four classes a year and work with students on independent study projects. What if they only had to teach three classes a year, or didn't help students with independent studies in some semesters? That's more time for research. Alternatively, if we hired more professors, each of them could go on sabbatical more often. The extra faculty would effectively "sabbatical proof" each department.

Money is the obvious constraint to what I am proposing. I don't know how many extra professors would have to be hired to do what I've discussed—therefore I don't know how expensive these plans would be. Yet even during this recession, there is money available.

The money I speak of is being spent on athletics. Last year, the College spent about $4 million on varsity sports teams. That's quite a chunk of cash. Some of it could—and should—be reallocated. I propose no specific cuts, but do point out that $4 million is a lot to spend on something that doesn't advance Bowdoin's academic mission. Bowdoin is a D-III school, yet we have more varsity sports teams than Notre Dame or Duke. Is that right? Honestly, I think it's pretty unlikely that any Bowdoin alum is going to end up as a professional athlete—thus we should look at athletics as an extracurricular. Isn't it strange then that varsity sports receive more than three times the funding allocated to all other extracurricular activities combined?

I'm not anti-athletics, but the College obviously has a limited amount of money. Athletics gets more money than anything else on campus save academics. If you agree that we should always strive to improve a Bowdoin education—and if you agree that being in class for more days is an obvious way of doing that—then you have to acknowledge that the money has to come from somewhere and athletics is where the money is.

Some may argue that we don't need to be in class as long as high school students because we work harder. This argument maintains that we are so stressed from our heavy workloads that we need the long breaks to decompress. My response would be that however hard we work, we're not making up for the six months each year that we're not in class.

Obviously, we work hard, and extra class would mean enduring stress for longer. Honestly though, people have endured worse. At Bowdoin, most of us are academically curious. I ask everyone reading this to think about why they might disagree with me. Don't give in to your worst instincts. Think about how excited you were to be here on your first day of classes. In four years, you're gone. Let's get a little more out of Bowdoin if we can.

Sam Vitello is a member of the Class of 2013.