As the long-overdue November break approaches, I struggle to think I’m the only one in need of a week off. The opening of the Fall semester poses one of the longest stretches of school without any rest, each week hurling five full days of classes at students until Week 12.
Yesterday, a fellow DC-er discussed how holiday spirit lacks universality; not every student is afforded the privilege to enjoy the holidays due to a variety of variables, nor do holidays evoke this so-called spirit or joy in every human being. There is an acknowledged privilege to advocate for additional “home time” during the school year— one which I will not attempt to justify or defend. Rather, I believe the university should implement additional days throughout the semester to give students and faculty the time off they deserve, while still operating under normal circumstances. Dining halls and other campus buildings should remain open, with the only difference being the absence of classes.
Other Connecticut universities engage in such behavior; Yale, for one, offers students a mid-October recess – this year’s being from Oct. 18-24 – with an additional reading week – not weekend – before finals each semester. Other schools such as Wesleyan University and Connecticut College also include October recesses in their academic calendars.
Do these schools boast happier and more well-rested student bodies? And if so, is this increased wellbeing a byproduct of mid-semester breaks? While I am not here to attempt to quantify the health of one university’s undergraduate population versus another, nor am I convinced of any sort of causation between any potential positive outlook, one thing remains true: Breaks offer rest for students, and this rest is at the very least a step in the right direction in making college more sustainable for the student mind and body.
Aside from UConn’s pathetically lacking mental health services, the university does little to ensure the wellbeing of its students; ongoing protests regarding sexual assault, defunding UCPD, divesting from the military-industrial complex and apartheid states all remain persistent issues that inhibit the lives of students, just to name a few. Seeing that none of these are likely to be resolved in any sort of near future, the university should take to more tangible and impactful means of supporting the student body than dog therapy or goat yoga.
As for logistics, I haven’t thought these through — typical of me these days. The schools mentioned above are private institutions independent of Connecticut’s state holidays, government scheduling and so on. Yet there’s something to be said about an academic company offering its student-employees — until Yale pays taxes I stand by this statement – time off during the busiest hours of the semester.
I’ll spare you from the eleventeen research papers I dug up on the benefits of short-term breaks and vacations; most advocate that short breaks improve cognitive function and are sometimes more beneficial than longer vacations. My main defense of my omission, however, is that I doubt there are many students who wouldn’t approve of a four-day week every month or so. The point stands that regardless of its effects, a day off here and there will free up necessary time in the lives and of students, allowing them to catch up on missed work, reflect or simply enjoy 24 hours of freedom for once.
We’re no strangers to longing for respite; we’ve all slept with a spoon under our pillows on a cold December night. If the university wants to properly ensure the mental and physical well-being of its student body, whom they have sworn to protect, then it must enact more days off throughout the semester. No one should be asked to work for 12 weeks nonstop, nor should a college degree require deprivation of basic human needs. Students deserve a free day of rest every so often, as climate change, global war, corrupt politics, pandemics, economic crises and the stresses of school all weigh down on us on a daily basis. Give us a break.