The University officially went on Thanksgiving Break on Nov. 23 at 5 p.m., just hours before the holiday. This late end to classes unnecessarily presents many problems for students, professors and others associated with the school. This same problem also occurs with winter break; exams ended on Dec. 23 last year. Everyone should be able to enjoy a problem-free Thanksgiving and winter break at home with his family. It is in the best interest of students to eliminate Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving classes – which have become far more trouble than they are worth – and schedule final exams such that students do not have to drive or secure flights home just one or two days before Christmas.
The University has a large out-of-state and international-student population. These students, as well as Michigan residents who live more than a few hours from campus, find themselves in a difficult situation each November. They can either skip the few classes that were not cancelled, or they can risk being late for, or even missing, Thanksgiving. Last Wednesday’s snowstorm shows Michigan’s weather can make travel slow and dangerous at this time of year.
Because airline fares tend to rise significantly for the days leading up to a major holiday, students often shell out hundreds of extra dollars because they cannot skip their Wednesday classes. These students do not get to return home often, and they should not be forced into a frantic scramble when they attempt to do so for Thanksgiving.
Many, if not most, professors have already realized Wednesday classes are unnecessary and unfair to students and have annually cancelled them. But there always remain the few professors who refuse to grant students the day off so long as the University is technically open. They often feel that without the Office of the Registrar’s blessing, they have an obligation to their students to hold class. Some students are then forced to stay an extra day for a single class, while others choose to skip. The few holdout classes held on Wednesday end up being informal, poorly attended and often a waste of time.
Cancelling Wednesday classes would not entirely alleviate these problems, and some students might start skipping Tuesday classes to gain an extra day of vacation. Even so, a major problem would be avoided: Students would now have sufficient travel time home. While some students would abuse this change and leave even earlier, it is still in the best interest of students at large to allow for one extra day off. It is hardly unreasonable to ask for more than seven hours to travel home.
The problems surrounding Thanksgiving vacation echo many of the problems with the longer semester break. While the last exams will be held on Dec. 22 this term, finals did not officially end until Dec. 23 last year. Just as students currently scramble to get home for Thanksgiving, shutting down the University for winter break so close to important family holiday puts many students in the same bind. Although the University semester break dates change each year, the administration must ensure students can complete their exams with enough time to make it home before what is for many students a major holiday. A few extra days can make an important difference in terms of both time and money for students, regardless of faith or family tradition. Students should not still be in a classroom – hundreds of miles from home – just seven hours before Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve.