The days are getting shorter and the list of upcoming exams and deadlines is growing longer. In just a short week, we will be entering Reading Period, an opportunity for students to focus deeply on their final tasks of the semester. Reading Period can be a difficult time for students. Regardless of class year, students face challenging papers, exams and projects. At the same time, the College does not allow students to register events after December 9. Academics are the cornerstone of the college experience, but the College should also support students’ well-being during stressful periods of the semester by encouraging substance-free registered events, student performances and full-day wellness services. While academics should remain the focus of reading period, more structured social events on campus can provide students with a fulfilling and beneficial outlet for non-academic energy and much needed balance in their day.
Reading Period is a time dedicated to work, to turn-in missing assignments, to brainstorm the last papers of the semester and to study for final exams. We are grateful for the four days the College provides for students to prepare for the end of the year. However, all of these 96 hours cannot be spent glued to a desk. It is imperative to use this time to decompress and breathe. And since students are bound to do exactly this, it would be beneficial for the College to provide more programming allowing for structured breaks throughout the day with varying activities.
These activities could be hosted by a variety of campus groups, from College Houses to student organizations. Some programming could be simple, such as cookie-decorating in the afternoon or screening a movie in the evening; others could be more performance-based, like extracurricular student dance or a cappella shows.
In addition, Counseling and Wellness Services, Student Activities and other college offices can be major resources for promoting student mental and physical health during the most academically draining period of the semester. Students could benefit from ice skating in Watson or all-day reiki and acupuncture clinics, for example. Events like these can help students break up their day and return to their studying more productive and focused than if they were to work continuously without structured breaks. Organized events by college offices can also distribute the burden of planning these community efforts.
Granted, events during Reading Period could be unwanted distractions if students feel pressured to socialize. But students socialize and procrastinate during Reading Period anyway. Many students independently find ways to take breaks from studying, whether through mindless scrolling on TikTok or binge-watching Netflix. Holding events during this break brings structure and community to a time that often lacks both.
With four days of unstructured time, students lack the framework of a typical day filled with classes and activities. Especially for first year students who will experience finals week for the first time, an open period like this can be daunting and overwhelming. Breaking up large study sessions with scheduled events tailored to student happiness can encourage healthy study habits and foster community during an isolating time. While the goal of reading period is to study, it is unrealistic and unhealthy to expect students to only do that. It is important that we take time to care for ourselves, too.
This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Julia Dickinson, Nikki Harris, Katie King, Kaya Patel, Tianyi Xu, Halina Bennet and Seamus Frey.