Despite an attempt by student government leaders, the university administration has rejected a proposal this year for the implementation of a fall break. Undergraduate Student Government has tried for two consecutive years now to encourage the administration to provide students with a two-day fall break in the middle of the semester, both times failing to secure a popular vote among the faculty senate and approval from school administrators. With 96 percent of students who responded to a poll conducted by USG favoring a fall break, the response and demand is overwhelmingly clear — USC needs a fall break. Many universities, such as Yale, Princeton and Duke, already have a fall break in place. USC has the opportunity to become a model and leader in higher education and set the standard that, for the mental health and well-being of students, a fall break is appropriate.
In the current 2015-16 academic year, USC has 72 instructional days in the fall semester. In each of the next five years, it will drop to 71 instructional days in the fall semester, all without a fall break. Spring break offers a demarcation and a signal for the final stretch of the spring semester. In fall, we have no such luxury of time off. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, finals are around the corner and students and faculty find themselves scrambling to get so much done in so little time. A fall break offers a breather and rest for students and faculty. After a long stretch of studying, exams, papers and projects, it is important to stop and take a break. For some students, classes only have one midterm and they all fall relatively at the same time. For others, the only world they know is midterms. Once they start, they don’t stop until final exams begin. With such a rigorous coursework, one can easily burn out and get lost in a seemingly never ending cycle of review sheets and study guides. It may be fall, but highlighter fluid and coffee stains aren’t really in fashion.
A fall break has so much to offer. It offers Trojans that additional time to catch up. And it offers students time to focus on their other pursuits and possibly commit more time to recruiting processes or resume building. It’s disappointing to hear students say Los Angeles is not all that they expected or made it out to be when all they can see is as far as Adams and Hoover. USC offers Maymesters and Alternative Spring Break activities, but sorely lacks a time during the fall semester for students to put down the pencil, take off the sweatpants and expand their education beyond the classroom.
As shown in the rejection of the fall break, not everyone shares the same sentiment. Professors and faculty have expressed concern over curriculum and time in the classroom. The concerns are valid, but they fail to recognize the benefits that a fall break brings. Sometimes cramming 10 lab sessions or five to six lengthy novels doesn’t do any good. When you have four or five midterms they stop being simply midterms. They’re four or five full-fledged exams. The point is this: Adding so much in to a semester because there is little time and then rejecting time off because there is too much stress for all that needs to be done is a glaring sign that something needs to change. Schools like Yale recognized that and did something about it after repeated attempts by undergraduates. It’s time USC recognize it, and USG should not give up on its proposal.
The extra two days off may seem small, but they offer a glimmer of hope that many students need. USG President Rini Sampath has spearheaded mental health as a major issue on campus and a fall break would champion that fight to help students who are struggling under so much pressure. With so many midterm examinations, essays, papers, extracurriculars, and all the other stress that comes with collegiate life, it’s important the university demonstrates it cares about students and their success. It doesn’t help anyone when you completely pack a schedule, increase stress and end up with students faltering. You don’t learn, and it reflects poorly on everyone involved. Seventy-two instructional days. Seventy-one days. Sometimes, it’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality.
Athanasius Georgy is a junior majoring in economics. His column, “Campus Talk,” runs Thursdays.