November is a crazy month for college students: midterms, essays, the beginning of cold weather, apartment searching and finalizing winter break plans are just a few of the things many college students struggle to balance in their daily lives. Then, there comes a haven for all — Thanksgiving break.
Thanksgiving is one of the most “American” of all holidays, with the exception of Independence Day. During the American Revolution, Thanksgiving was already recognized by the Continental Congress, and in 1789, George Washington called upon Americans to give thanks for the country’s newfound independence and recently passed Constitution. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to set an official day for Thanksgiving, making it a national holiday in 1863.
Today, Thanksgiving has come to symbolize a time when family and friends come together to share a meal, give thanks for each other and spend time relaxing. For University of Wisconsin students, however, Thanksgiving can be stressful because the current academic calendar only gives student 2 days off from school to celebrate Thanksgiving — Thanksgiving day and the day after.
This “break” is flawed for many reasons. One main issue is that it leaves professors in an awkward position. They know students do not want to come — or simply do not come — to class Monday through Wednesday, so they often feel they cannot schedule anything important for that week. Many professors cancel their Wednesday classes to avoid extremely low attendance rates, and nearly all discussion sections for the week are canceled.
Especially for a school that does not issue any other breaks during the fall semester, UW should really be giving students more than just two days for Thanksgiving break. Other schools in the Big 10 — like the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa and Indiana University — give their students a full week for Thanksgiving break, allowing them ample time to go home, spend time with family and friends and catch up on classes before finals. For Wisconsin students, the choices are to either go home for three days and have to come right back, skip the whole week and hope they can catch up on the class they miss, or not go home at all. This is especially tough for students that live far away. Long flights take up precious time at home — and for international students, it’s basically impossible to fit in a quick flight back and forth.
Research shows that extended breaks have great mental health benefits, a strong issue of concern for college students today. According to Scientific American, downtime “replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential both to achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories.” Many can attest that taking a break from anything school-related for even just a little can greatly help in refocusing for the rest of the semester.
A full week of Thanksgiving would not just be used for relaxation. When students return from Thanksgiving, there are essentially two and a half weeks until the start of finals. Giving students a full week off from classes would give them time to catch up on readings, projects, essays and the multitude of assignments usually due right around the time students return from Thanksgiving. With the current calendar, it’s nearly impossible to get much schoolwork done in such little time, especially when students often want to use the few days they do have for de-stressing.
Overall, the solution is clear — UW should make Thanksgiving break a whole week. The shortened school week makes it hard for professors to truly teach their students, and the quick break makes it difficult for students to truly relax. For the sake of all faculty and students, the break needs to be extended.
Courtney Degen ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and intending to major in journalism.