Students deserve freedom to make study days choice
I admire my professor's dedication.
The last scheduled classes before a break are usually sparsely attended, and the students who do attend are at best intermittently attentive. This was certainly the situation in my 2 p.m. class on the Thursday before Easter break, as 10 of us, grumbling all the way, complained that while our peers fled campus when their classes were cancelled, we were stuck in class.
But my professor — whose name I will keep anonymous to spare him criticism from his colleagues — opened class that day by thanking us for attending. Initially, I rolled my eyes at the feeble attempt to win our affections for the next 90 minutes — until he explained why we were having class.
"In my opinion, your professors who cancel class today owe you a tuition refund," he told us. "They get paid to work today, and if they cancel class, it's a free day off. You all pay a lot of money to be here. I have little respect for my colleagues who don't hold their classes today."
After that, how could you argue being in class? With a professor that dedicated, you can't help but want to be there. For the next 90 minutes I paid attention in that last scheduled class before Easter break, with a newfound respect for my professor's passion to teach.
With that in mind, I have difficulty understanding why Saint Mary's administrators and faculty assembly delegates continually shoot down the Board of Governance proposal for study days. Under the premise that removing a class day from the semester schedule would force them to condense their already-overloaded syllabi, the faculty assembly has said repeatedly they will reject study days in any form. I am willing to bet my semester GPA that these delegates have cancelled their own classes at least once in the semester for a break, professional development activities for themselves or personal conflicts.
I'm sorry, but to me, that's just selfish.
Canceling classes at whim at other points during the semester because the professor has conflicts doesn't seem like a justifiable argument not to cancel class when the students really need it — right before finals. I've had classes canceled this semester alone for professors traveling to conferences, professors taking personal trips and simply because they wrapped up their syllabi early. As students, we're only asking for one cancellation. It's certainly not unreasonable.
The second criticism of the proposal is that there is a wide misuse of study days across the street — which I won't, for one second, deny. I am not going to pretend that there aren't block parties and cups tournaments and couches that become fixtures on South Quad for days on end. I won't pretend that the vast majority of Domers I know will spend the next two days playing video games, tossing Frisbees and closing out the semester with a round of drinks at the 'Backer, Boat Club, Heartland or Coach's. I won't pretend that for the next two days, thousands of Notre Dame students will choose partying over studying. And I won't pretend that if Saint Mary's students were granted a study day, hundreds wouldn't make that exact same choice.
But how is that choice any different than the rest of the year? Every weekend in the semester, as students, we are inundated with tests, projects and proposals due in the upcoming week. And every weekend in the semester, students make the choice to party or study. Some will justify partying because they've done too much studying; some will justify studying because they've done too much partying.
Managing time, be it social or academic, is a critical college skill. If a student hasn't mastered the art of choosing between studying and partying by the time they are 18, 19, 20 or 21 years old, they probably have bigger problems than waking up hungover on study days.
The administration and faculty assembly need to allow students the freedom to choose for themselves how to manage their time. Basing a decision on the presumption that all students are unable to make these choices effectively is poor rationale. In the next seven days, I have four papers and one test — and that's on the heels of the other four major projects I have turned in over the past week. If granted a study day, I know I would make the choice to use that day to get some of that work done. I would also, in all probability, make the choice to party with my friends across the street.
And as a 21-year-old college junior, I feel equipped to make that choice.
It's just too bad my administration doesn't think so.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Scene Stories for Wednesday, May 2, 2001