Next week, the average temperature is predicted to be around 30 degrees Fahrenheit — at least 20 degrees below what could usually be described as cool, breezy spring days.
So, why then, does the University’s spring break occur in the cold of winter instead of during the spring season for which it is named?
Despite the snow on the ground when students leave campus and still there when they return, spring break is at its current point in the calendar because of the University’s academic calendar — regardless of the weather.
Gretchen Weir, assistant vice provost for academic affairs, said that the current timing of spring break has been in place since the 1960s, when the University turned to an unofficial trimester system.
Since then, the University’s calendar has allowed for three 15-week terms each year — fall, winter and summer — with a condensed spring semester in between.
This system grants students the choice to graduate early or use the extra time to experiment with classes outside of their major, Weir said.
In order to fit three full semesters into one year, students at the University complete their winter semester by the end of April.
Completing the school year earlier than most schools gives students a jumpstart on summer internships and job offerings.
Therefore, Weir said, the timing of spring break must be proportional to the length of the semester.
“Spring break is defined as the middle of the term,” she said. “(It) has always been scheduled, since the 1960s, for the seventh week of the term.”
Despite the logic behind the schedule, students often complain the University’s spring break does not coincide with the vacations of friends who attend other schools.
Weir said that having spring break fall on the seventh week of the term is helpful to students enrolled in mini-courses and professors who give midterms.
“From an academic point of view, it doesn’t make sense to have it right before finals because it would interrupt the educational flow,” she said.
Since the date of spring break appears to be at set in stone at this point, some students wonder why University officials don’t change the name of the break, making it more fitting to the time of the year in which it occurs.
“There is no question, the name is a misnomer,” Weir said.