Each year, America celebrates Columbus Day to commemorate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus arriving in America over 500 years ago. This isn’t quite accurate, however, because Christopher Columbus didn’t actually hit America: he hit Hispaniola, the island that Haiti and the Dominican Republic now share. Nevertheless, each year when this holiday is celebrated, a huge debate arises over the ethics of celebrating a man who viciously attacked and conquered a nation of people in order to take over their land and spread his own country’s ideals. In the interest of recognizing the faults of Columbus, many organizations, including the University of Connecticut, have begun to celebrate “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in place of Columbus Day.
Calling the holiday by either name may make a difference to some people, but it does not matter in one respect: we still don’t get a day off from school. While a day’s vacation from school is clearly not the point of any holiday, these small breaks are astronomically important to students, especially those at a demanding university like UConn. Not only does our university keep us in school on Columbus Day, we are in school for almost every other federally recognized holiday besides Labor Day. While the importance of a quality, consistent education cannot be understated, having a reprieve from work and school that will not penalize students every once in a while is also extremely important for students.
Columbus Day is not the only holiday on which students are still required to attend class. Veterans Day, Presidents’ Day and other holidays are alike in this regard. Additionally, UConn doesn’t get any sort of autumn break until Thanksgiving, when we are allotted a precious week off from classes. However, there are many other schools that, in addition to having time off for Thanksgiving, also have another break during the fall semester, usually in the form of a long weekend. This time off greatly benefits students, as they have a chance to decompress and relax during an ever-stressful semester. Also, while having a week off for Thanksgiving is nice, by the time students return to campus, they are often less motivated during what is typically the busiest time of the semester. The three weeks between Thanksgiving break and finals week are always difficult, and some might argue that having the entire week off makes it a bit harder to get back into the swing of things. If we traded half of a week of Thanksgiving break for half of a week off of school in October, students might be less likely to run into this problem.
Students work extremely hard during the semester and deserve a bit more of a break than they typically get. While a week off for Thanksgiving is greatly appreciated, students’ motivation levels might be better maintained with various days off throughout the semester or two shorter breaks. Whether the day off is granted for Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day is definitely still an important argument, but it is also important to allow students this rest every once in a while.