Students reacted positively to last week’s announcement that the USC Undergraduate Student Government has begun pushing for a fall break; I find myself wondering, however, if USG isn’t jumping the gun on this one.
Having entered USC just this year, I never knew the trials of having only two class days off for Thanksgiving. I can guess, however, that such a situation would have rendered impossible my already super-condensed travel plans. Even with the addition of Wednesday to the vacation, many students found it difficult or downright pointless to travel home. I imagine it’s quite disheartening to spend five days on campus with three quarters of your building emptied out, getting text messages from your family about how they wish you were there and anticipating EVK or take-out as your Thanksgiving dinner. With its Wednesday victory, USG was on its way to rectifying this situation, but now USG has imprudently switched gears even though there is still more to accomplish.
So now we have two things on the table: a brand new fall break in the middle of October or the coveted full-length Thanksgiving vacation. It seems unrealistic to expect that we could get both, unless we wanted to move the start of our school year to the first week of August. Pushing the beginning of the semester back even further would constrict summer travel, employment and durations of internships even more than the date already does. Alternatively, we could end our fall semester later; neither students nor faculty accustomed to USC’s comfortably long Christmas break, however, would appreciate such a move.
USG is thus left with two options to pursue. I know which I would prefer — a week-long Thanksgiving break, hands down. First of all, Thanksgiving break is preexisting and USC is never going to entirely abolish it. If we’re going to have Thanksgiving off, we might as well be able to spend it with our families. An entire week of break would make that possible for students otherwise seriously questioning the worth of perhaps an entire day’s worth of travel for just four days at home.
Fall break, on the other hand, exists only in theory. This makes it a less feasible option. To lobby for a fall break, USG has to start from scratch, whereas it has already put in two years of concentrated effort into extending Thanksgiving break.
The university will probably be much more accommodating in discussing the extension of Thanksgiving, simply because channels on the subject of communication are already open. How much more trouble and time will it take to initiate a new project, particularly one that requires negotiating an entire week’s worth of classes, as opposed to lobbying for just two extra days?
Aside from the direct appeal of spending the holiday at home, having time off at Thanksgiving instead of in October also provides a better window of opportunity to visit with people who might be away from home a lot themselves or geographically far away. Even those who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving probably want to be home for it, as their parents will be off from work, their siblings and friends will have returned from other schools and vacations or other excursions might be planned.
October is much more questionable. There is no standard for the fall break, no guarantee that one institution’s fall break (if it even has one) will coincide with another friends’. And though it has been argued that a break in October would provide students with some much-needed relief in the middle of the semester, USG should think realistically. It’s possible that students who actually traveled this Thanksgiving got very little in the way of homework done during the trip. No doubt, lots of post-travel all-nighters were pulled. At least at this point in the semester, none of us are ruining ourselves for midterms. A month ago, however? Things would have been a disaster.
USG needs to consider the impracticality of asking for a fall break when an extension of Thanksgiving break is a much more viable option.
Instead of initiating a process that could take a decade to succeed, USG should finish what it started and work for a change it knows will please the student body — a real Thanksgiving vacation.
Francesca Bessey is an undeclared freshman.