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A permanent “polar pause”

November 18, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

At 7:05 p.m. on November 4, 2021, the sound of applause rang throughout Thorne: a wave of relief cascading across campus as the student body checked their emails. At that moment, President Clayton Rose’s extension of Thanksgiving Break was necessary for a College processing tremendous grief.

Conditions on campus are vastly different this fall, but the “polar pause” is still warranted. The wellbeing of students needs to be Bowdoin’s priority. We devote an incredible amount of energy into our time at Bowdoin, and a permanent extension of Thanksgiving Break would allow students to recharge rather than asking students to find time for this themselves.

BSG had proposed an extension of Thanksgiving Break as early as the Spring Semester of 2021. In the email to the student body announcing last Thanksgiving’s extended break, Dean Scanlon mentioned that they had been considering the decision before students’ recuperation became a necessity.

For many students who live outside of New England, the travel time to get home seriously cuts into break. All of Wednesday and Sunday can be spent in transit, curtailing rest and relaxation to just Thursday, Friday and Saturday—relegating Thanksgiving Break to no more than a long weekend. After one of the longest stretches of classes in the academic year, this doesn’t feel like sufficient time to recharge.

Further, this can be an issue of equity. Plane ticket prices often hike on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Students whose tickets’ home are too pricey to warrant making the trip likely face an isolating week on campus. By the very nature of the issue, these students are also less likely to make a trip home over fall break or see their family over family weekend. They may wait an entire semester before returning home to spend time with their loved ones.

Attendance at Monday and Tuesday classes is already reduced. Many students leave for the weekend and accept the consequences of missing two days of classes. Some professors, in turn, cancel their classes or remove important content from them. These two days feel redundant yet remain stressful, as large assignments can be due on these Mondays or Tuesdays.

Students and faculty, then, tend to limp through the finish line in this awkward four-day period between Friday and Wednesday. Professors must decide whether it’s worth earnestly teaching to an incomplete classroom on Monday and Tuesday, and students must calculate weeks in advance what they will miss if they skip these two days. To remove these two days from the academic calendar would be to prevent such uncomfortable choices and make students and faculty more engaged in the five-day week leading up to break.

For the sake of the Bowdoin community, we encourage the College to make the “polar pause” permanent. The plan for the 2023–2024 academic year is still subject to change. The College should prioritize extending Thanksgiving Break rather than dwelling on the logistics of where to tack on the two days.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Robeson Amory, Michael Gordon, Nikki Harris, Jane Olsen, Lucy Watson, Halina Bennet and Seamus Frey.


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