The University prides itself on having a large out-of-state student population of 42.6 percent of the student body. University President Mary Sue Coleman has expressed interest in trying to attract even more out-of-state students to Ann Arbor. However, the University makes itself unattractive to these students by not only giving an incredibly short Thanksgiving vacation break, but by scheduling tests the first three days after students return to campus.
Breaks should be a time for students to recharge, and for many out-of-state students Thanksgiving break is the first time they will see their families in four months. Scheduling a test on the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday after Thanksgiving ensures that most students, local or out-of-state, will spend most of their break with textbooks and practice tests instead of their families.
University professors should be conscientious when they are scheduling tests, so hardworking students can enjoy the few breaks they have.
The University has already come under criticism for beginning Thanksgiving break at 5 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving. The largest proportion of out-of-state students come from New York or California, 13.7 percent and 14.1 percent respectively. For these out-of-state students, the average flight is between three and six hours long, decreasing the amount of time spent with one’s family down to 92 hours, or 3.8 days.
Most students have come to accept this part of life as a University student, however the organic chemistry test and physics test scheduled for the Tuesday and Thursday cement the fact that these students will spend their Thanksgiving stressing over exams. They will feel guilty when they spend time with their families instead of studying. Time not spent at the Thanksgiving table will be spent working at their desks.
There are many other tests scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving but physics and organic chemistry have the distinction as some of the hardest introductory courses offered. The averages on an organic chemistry test usually fall in the high 50s or low 60s as stated in the course syllabus. Physics has similar averages. Organic chemistry doesn’t even give answers to the practice tests, in the hope that students will work together and learn as a group.
Organic chemistry professor Brian Coppola states in his syllabus that the best way to learn is “to be able to explain your ideas while you are answering exam questions. Study together productively. Set up a group through the Science Learning Center or just do it on your own. Our campus is filled with empty classrooms – take turns going to the board and teaching each other.” He’s right, this is the best way to learn. However, a campus that is full of empty classrooms is useless when students aren’t on campus to utilize them.
Finally, Thanksgiving is not fall break. It’s not supposed to be a time before midterms for students to spend hours on end in the library. This is a national holiday celebrating a part of our country’s history. It’s mandated by the United States that this day be a vacation for public schools and government workers. This public university is funded, at least in part, by government money. While the school is following the government’s policy in the literal sense, it is not doing its justice to follow the spirit of the holiday. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the University sponsors gatherings and speeches like Shirley Sherrod’s speech in 2011. These events keep the meaning of MLK Day alive, but the University has not done the same for Thanksgiving, a holiday that has become synonymous with family time.
The University wants to increase the number of out-of-state students, yet they do very little to make the University appealing for such students — such as insanely expensive out-of-state tuition rates, limited vacation time and the inability to enjoy vacations without the looming threat of tests. Professors at a large university already have to combat the stereotype that they care more about their research than their students, and by scheduling tests at unattractive times they are reinforcing this idea.
Students at the University are hardworking and care about their grades, and the fact that they should have to choose between their scholarship and their family time is shameful. Thanksgiving is a national holiday and professors are acting in a disrespectful manner by expecting students to forgo their holiday traditions to either stay on campus engross themselves in silent study.
Jesse Klein is an LSA sophomore.