This semester, in an effort to reduce student stress levels, members of the Michigan Student Assembly pushed for a fall break to be added to the University”s academic calendar.
Currently, students in the Law and Dental schools have two days off during the otherwise uninterrupted stretch from September to Thanksgiving. With the exception of the Business and Medical schools, all other schools fall under the University academic calendar, which does not offer a break.
“To go from September to Thanksgiving without a break is very difficult and hard on both incoming and returning students,” MSA President Matt Nolan said.
The two-day break would fall sometime during October mid-term exams. Assembly members said they are searching for a time that would not extend the academic year to start before Labor Day or push later in December.
“We are trying to find a space within the existing schedule to have a couple days to catch up with midterms, papers and life in general,” Nolan said.
So far their efforts have yielded support from University administrators, said assembly Vice President Jessica Cash.
“We found that most administrators think it”s a great idea. They recognize that the stress level of students around the mid-October exam period is phenomenal,” Cash said.
But not all administrators shared Cash”s enthusiasm.
“It will be very difficult given the structures we now have in place,” Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Lester Monts said. The North Central Accreditation requires that universities have 67-68 days of classes per term.
“U of M barely makes the 68,” Monts said.
Monts said that a fall break is worth looking into but would require strong faculty support, possibly requiring faculty to begin their contracts earlier than Sept. 1.
Associate Dean of Students Frank Cianciola also said it could be difficult finding the space in the calendar for the extra break.
“I think the point about having breathing time in students” schedules has merit,” Cianciola said. “I just don”t know about the counterbalance between the academic load and the amount of time in the fall term.”
Assembly members decided to push for the break because of heightened student input on the issue. On a ballot initiative last fall 78 percent of LSA students said they would support a schedule change to accommodate a fall break.
“Another Thanksgiving break would be great,” LSA junior Libby Scott said.
Other students said they would prefer not to have a break if it brought along consequences such as added days at the beginning or end of the term.
“We could definitely use time off in the fall, but students tend to be decidedly less motivated after spring break,” said LSA freshman Laura Barnes.
Calendars are already set through Fall 2002, so if approved, the break would be implemented in Fall 2003.