In this bitterly cold last week of February, many students have frostbite-induced fantasies of lounging poolside and drinking daiquiris on an island. Preferably, the island is located somewhere that actually receives warmth from the sun. But in the current economic crisis, dreams of 98-degree bliss are difficult to translate into reality. Many of the University’s fiscally responsible students have no choice but to spend spring break coping with the cold in the comfort (or claustrophobia) of their parents’ homes, without the company of friends from other colleges who have later spring breaks. The University needs to bring its break in line with other schools so that Michigan students can share their spring experiences with people from other colleges.

The University schedules spring break in late February because it functions on a trimester system – fall, winter and summer. That means each semester is about 14 weeks long. So when the University sets up the schedule for the year, it slaps spring break at the seven-week mark, slicing the semester into two neat halves. But since a lot of other colleges schedule their spring breaks further into the semester, University students face a spring break void of buddies from high school who are still in class for another week or two. And even though the academic calendar is scheduled years in advance, the University needs to consider pushing back spring break so that students stop missing out on visits with hometown friends.

Even those who are lucky enough to travel or participate in an alternative spring break program are missing out, because they lose the opportunity to mingle with students from other schools. This is disappointing, because meeting college students from outside of Michigan is an enriching life experience that can be both lots of fun and very educational. Keeping spring break in the middle of the semester greatly reduces the odds of having such experiences.

Of course, staying at home can be even worse. For in-state students — about two-thirds of the University’s student body — spring break at home feels more like a seven-day exile to the ice planet of Hoth. It would be nice to have spring break a few weeks later when it’s a little warmer outside, so that even if students can’t go to Mexico, they won’t need to wear parkas.

Whether from Michigan or out-of-state, students who have to go home just can’t look forward to catching up with old friends at home or meeting new friends abroad. Students at home are condemned to pass the time by enduring a week’s worth of MTV Spring Break reruns dating back to 2003. But that’s not to say there’s nothing worthwhile for Michigan residents to do during spring break if they can’t make the journey to Cancun or meet up with high school friends in their hometowns. There’s always ice fishing. Or snowshoeing. Or — our personal favorite — igloo building.

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