With the winter holidays drawing closer, murmurs once again trickle across the University of Wisconsin campus, speculating about class schedules the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in hope that students and faculty will have the day off.

But alas, those villains have done it again. Apparently the low Thanksgiving eve attendance numbers of years past are just not persuasive enough for UW to give us an extra day off to travel and spend much-needed time away from the stress of college.

It’s really no mystery that travelling during the holidays can quickly turn into a hassle. It’s also no surprise that the distance one has to travel to make it home is directly proportional to the resultant hassle. So, simple logic will tell you that if the journey home is rather far, as is the case for many students and faculty here, then the hassle will only be worse. Now, throw in a little bit of a time crunch so graciously provided by UW’s academic schedule and we get a whole lot of hassle for not a lot of time off.

It’s just what everyone wants on our four day Thanksgiving break. Maybe the hefty appetizer of stress makes the Thanksgiving feast taste that much better.

UW has a history of being quite stingy with dishing out class cancellations or academic breaks. We get a snow day maybe once every few years, and it’s not because we’re lacking snow. Furthermore, many other universities give their students some sort of “fall break” around mid-October. As for UW? Not so much.

But unless UW has some “never pass on class” ego it wants to uphold, I really don’t see what is so problematic with giving students an extra day off around the holidays to make travel a little less stressful. This could make breaks a little more about being on break and a little less about stress.

And let’s be honest, holding class the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is an absolute waste of time. Nobody, not even the professor, wants to be in a lecture hall the day before one of the most stereotypical homecoming holidays, so it’s inevitable that minimal productivity occurs. 

Yet, UW’s Faculty Policies and Procedures claim, “No member of the faculty shall be absent from his/her classes or other regular duties at the university except by the permission of the chancellor or appropriate dean,” even if nobody is going to show up because they should be eating Thanksgiving dinner in a matter of hours. Last time I checked, most faculty members celebrate major national holidays as well, but unlike their students, they can’t just skip pointless class periods.

The whole Thanksgiving fiasco happens every year, so it’s really just another inconvenience UW likes to throw at us. But just to keep us on our toes this year, they decided to launch an assault on the class-free sanctities of winter break. Finals week of this semester stretches its long, ugly arms all the way to Dec. 23rd.

That’s right, two days before Christmas.

Many students, including myself, will be taking final exams on the eve of Christmas Eve. This does not bode well to say the least. Even UW’s own Faculty Legislature on Academic Matters advises against it: “It is a hardship on students, and perhaps on faculty, to schedule final exams through Dec. 23.”

Not only is the fact that we will be taking exams so close to Christmas day troubling, the idea of trying to get home for Christmas on the 23rd or later sounds downright brutal. But, apparently UW figured it’d be a good idea.

I understand that timing doesn’t always work out, and I’m not trying to say we should be cancelling classes willy-nilly. But, I truly don’t see why UW can’t tweak the class schedule around the holidays to at least try to accommodate those who have to travel far in order to see their family.

Isn’t that what the holidays are all about anyway?

Phil Michaelson ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering.