Students question necessity of classes before Thanksgiving
For as long as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs Gene Bickers can remember, USC has held classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — often causing headaches for students and professors alike.
Many professors cancel classes that Wednesday, while others hold class only to see a sorely lacking student attendance as students often must decide between going to class and traveling home for the holiday. Still, the university continues to hold classes the day before Thanksgiving, though it has begun to consider making a change.
“The question has certainly been raised,” Bickers said. “But we’re still trying to figure out if it is to the university’s advantage if we have a short week before Thanksgiving.”
Hung Wong, a professor of engineering, said he is still holding class on Wednesday, but he has told his students the class will not affect their grade in any way.
“I’m paid to teach,” Wong said. “I don’t want to be lazy and not hold class … But attendance will not be required — it won’t be on any quizzes or homework assignments, so if they don’t show up, it’s as if it never happened.”
Based on past years, Hung estimated that, at most, half his students will be in class.
“Typically the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has very sparse attendance,” he said.
But other professors are not so forgiving if students miss class because of travel plans or for any other reason.
Derek DeCaro, a freshman majoring in psychology, said his Spanish professor is giving a quiz Wednesday and has told students they will not be allowed to make up the quiz at another time.
“I would go home on Tuesday, but I have to stay another day,” DeCaro said. “For people that need to travel and book airplanes, it’s kind of a pain. I think the university is absolutely ignoring the fact that people need to travel. One day is not enough time.”
Another professor, who wished to remain anonymous, said he is canceling class in anticipation of low attendance, knowing that many students leave Wednesday regardless of their class schedule.
“I’m not going to hold a class when only 15 of my 200 students will be there,” he said. “But the university’s policy is that we have classes on Wednesday.”
The professor asked to remain anonymous because he was concerned his decision to cancel class would get him in trouble with his school’s dean.
Lindsay Portnuff, a senior majoring in economics, said all her professors canceled classes on Wednesday this year.
“I don’t think it makes sense to have classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” Portnuff said. “All my teachers canceled it this year, anyway. But in past years, when I have had classes, maybe 20 percent of the class comes. I don’t think there’s a point.”
Portnuff said being able to leave before Wednesday has saved her money.
“It’s so expensive to go home Wednesday night,” she said. “It’s much cheaper to fly home Tuesday or Monday night. I’m leaving [Monday] and it’s half the cost of going home [Tuesday].”
According to a recent poll conducted by the Undergraduate Student Government, most students share Portnuff’s views — 93.2 percent of students who completed the survey said they want Wednesday off.
Though the idea is only being discussed hypothetically right now, USG Director of Academic Affairs Andrew Matson, who is in charge of the poll, said he does think the university should re-evaluate its calendar.
“The schedule doesn’t allow students to travel home as it should,” Matson said. “I do think the academic calendar hasn’t changed with the times as the university has been evolving. We are no longer a commuter school. We are a national and international school and I think our calendar needs to change to reflect that fact.”