Calvin extends Thanksgiving, Easter breaks for next two academic years
Due to the efforts of student senate and the office of the provost, two additional days off for students will be added to next academic year: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Monday after Easter.
These days off will be part of a two-year trial period for the academic calendar. The changes will take effect in the 2013-2014 and 2014-15 academic years.
Students, especially for those who need extra time to travel, and their parents have raised concerns over the shortness of Thanksgiving break in the current academic calendar.
“The pressure point, through the past years, has been Thanksgiving,” said Heidi Reinstra, the executive assistant in the provost’s office.
Adding two additional days off to the academic calendar, however, means that two extra academic school days will be added back into the calendar for balance. This will look different depending on the school year.
The calendar changes will give students a lengthened Christmas break for the 2013-14 academic year.
For freshman Ansley Kelly, who lives in Erie, Penn., having classes on Wednesday before Thanksgiving makes for an inconvenient traveling schedule.
“I’m still going home [this year],” said Kelly. “It’s just going to be inconvenient because I’m not going to get home until late Wednesday night, and then going into the holiday the next day, it sort of makes it feel really crunched and not worth it.”
The administration’s decision to change the calendar to give students the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Monday after Easter off will make traveling back home for holiday breaks much more convenient for Kelly.
“That will be really helpful,” said Kelly. “[Otherwise] I would have to leave on Easter Sunday to get back here, and that’s no fun. I want to eat dinner with my family and enjoy the holiday.”
So what will determine whether or not the extended Thanksgiving and spring breaks will continue past the two-year trial period? Reinstra said that the provost’s office will take a few things into consideration, including class attendance in the days prior to the break.
“A big [consideration] is going to be class attendance on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week,” said Reinstra. “One of the traditional arguments against giving this day off was that then you’re going to get people taking the whole week off.”
Reinstra’s chief concern with the changes made to the academic calendar is educational.
“And that is my number one consideration for making the calendar, what is best pedagogically,” said Reinstra. “So if giving Wednesday off makes people regress and take the whole week off, that would be a fail.”
The process of change started last semester, then-student senate President Nana Owusu-Achau, then-Vice President Yeaji Choi and current Vice President of Programming Ashley Holmes met in the provost’s office in an effort to push the academic calendar changes.
“They came to us with a very professional, well laid-out proposal, and they had thought through some of the possible domino [effects] and options and had suggestions for how it could be met,” said Reinstra.
The student senate survey last spring was also a driving force for the academic calendar changes.
26.9 percent of the students surveyed wanted Thanksgiving break to be a week long, and 58.7 percent of students wanted just the Wednesday off before Thanksgiving. 14.4 percent of students did not want the break to be changed.
Current student senate President Yeaji Choi headed up the effort to extend Thanksgiving break for the academic calendar. Choi considered the collaboration between the administration and student senate to be a great example of how both bodies could work together to meet the needs of the student body.
“The needs were very clear,” said Choi. “It was basically travel, having an extra day to travel. That was the main concern and the root of the problem because students didn’t have a day to travel when they had an evening exam.”
Student senate presented various ideas and proposals to the provost’s office. Extending Thanksgiving break became the primary concern after the results of the spring survey.
“We discussed what was the core need,” said Choi. “Should we create a fall break independent from Thanksgiving, or should we extend Thanksgiving, or should we have no break at all and extend Christmas break? Students voiced that Thanksgiving was the biggest priority, so we moved forward with that.”
Around the same time as the student senate survey, the Calvin Parent Council sent a letter to Calvin College asking for the full week off so that their students could come home. This prompted the provost’s office to further consider making changes to the academic calendar.
The academic calendar change is reminiscent of a similar situation in which the provost’s office decided to give students Good Friday off, Reinstra said.
“We used to have classes on Good Friday, the half day, and eventually we just said, ‘no, we’re just not going to have class on Good Friday; we have to make it work,’” she said. “And what we traded at that time was that we used to have the Monday after spring break off, and we said okay, to have Good Friday off we lose that Monday after spring break.”
Although the decision was ultimately up to the provost, Claudia Beversluis, student senate played a significant role, Reinstra said.
“Student senate’s professional presentation and follow-up data helped us to look at it really seriously and say, you know, we think this is the time,” said Reinstra.