USG survey considers fall break

A recent survey released by the Undergraduate Student Government has students excited about the possibility of a fall break or a longer Thanksgiving holiday. Even if change is made, however, students will not be around to see it.

The survey, released Oct. 28, asked students whether they would favor extending Thanksgiving break or creating a fall break. But even with overwhelming response — about 2,000 students have already taken the survey — a vacation would not materialize until at least 2015.

“Calendars are finalized several years in advance,” Kenneth Servis, the dean of Academic Records and Registrar, wrote in an email. “A finalized calendar could be changed but it would be highly unusual.”

The Academic Calendar Committee, which includes students, faculty and staff and is chaired by Servis, plans out the yearly calendar, which is then approved by Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias. Academic calendars are currently set through the summer of 2015.

In addition, adding a fall break or extending the Thanksgiving break would require lengthening the academic calendar because President Steven B. Sample has mandated that each semester must have at least 72 instructional days, Servis said.

“There has to be a trade-off,” Servis said. “We can, for instance, start earlier in August or go later.”

Andrew Matson, director of academic affairs for USG, said the administration had approached USG last year to see if students would be interested in having either the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off or getting a fall break sometime between the first day of classes and Thanksgiving, which prompted USG to conduct the survey.

“One major advantage of a fall break is that students get a little bit of time to get caught up on school work as well as some important relaxation time,” Matson said. “In our current schedule, we go from Labor Day until Thanksgiving without so much as a three-day weekend, and I think that students need some time away from classes both to catch up and to decompress.”

Adding days to Thanksgiving break would maximize students’ ability to relax, said to Donna Spruijt-Metz, an expert in adolescent psychosocial development and health and an assistant professor of research in the Keck School of Medicine. She added that an ideal fall break would be at least a week long.

“The evidence is pretty conclusive that longer breaks are more helpful than shorter breaks,” Spruijt-Metz said. “If there’s going to be a break, it should be a meaningful amount of time that really lets students relax.”

Several students said they would appreciate a longer break not only to reduce stress, but also because it could make traveling more affordable.

“It saves students a lot of money on plane tickets to book flights earlier in the Thanksgiving week,” said Whitney Gaines, a sophomore majoring in political science and creative writing.

Even if USC decided to create a three-day weekend fall break, some students at other universities with a similar holiday complained that such a break was not long enough.

“I definitely want the fall break to last longer because ours was only a three-day weekend,” said Eric Danielson, a sophomore majoring in accounting and entrepreneurship at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “It didn’t seem like much of a break to me. I would love a four- or five-day break.”

One disadvantage of a fall break, however, is that it might interrupt students’ schedules.

Caitlin Oriel, a sophomore majoring in growth and structure of cities at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Penn., said her school’s weeklong fall break in October interrupted her routine.

“I liked the break because I was worn out and needed to catch up on sleep,” Oriel said. “However, it did interrupt my schedule and my studies. It was very hard to motivate myself to study during the week off, so I felt behind when I came back.”

Students will have to wait and see whether the university decides to extend Thanksgiving break or add a fall break, but most students said they would welcome a change in the calendar.

“Everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving, but it seems so far away,” said Kimberly Morris, a freshman majoring in communication. “I just like to see my family and friends and enjoy time off from school and sports.”