Last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, was a lonely day on campus. Although classes were technically in session until 5 p.m., many students took off early to make their holiday travel easier – and understandably so.
As a result, many professors cancelled class. With about one-third of the student population coming from outside Michigan, the University needs to acknowledge that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year and simply cancel class.
It is no secret that Thanksgiving is the most heavily traveled time of the year. Analysts expected 25 million people to jump on a plane this year in the week of Thanksgiving, 3 percent more than last year. And as demand rises, so do prices. According to one airline industry group, the average price for a round-trip ticket was $355 – an increase of 6 percent from last year alone. The American Automobile Association advises that the earlier in the week travelers leave, the better. That is tough advice to follow for students who cannot miss class.
Students and professors alike have realized the need for change. The fact of the matter is that many, if not most, students skip class on Wednesday. Professors who need to get to their own holiday destinations and anticipate low attendance already cancel class. But professors may not make this decision until late in the term when students have already bought tickets and made reservations.
The flagship state universities in Iowa, Indiana and Virginia have changed their calendars to accommodate their students’ needs by offering a full week off for Thanksgiving. A week-long break would have its advantages, though it would require adjusting the academic calendar. Eliminating the day before Thanksgiving from the academic calendar would be a simple action that would make a real difference to students.