No classes Thanksgiving Eve

About halfway through October, college students begin to dream about Thanksgiving: the comforts of home, an overload of good food and (of course) a much-needed break from school. For many, this is the first time they’ve tasted Mom’s cooking since August.

This year, classes recess in the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 22, a return to the schedule followed in 2013 and 2014. Encouraged by a Student Senate survey in which 58.7% of students requested a four-day break, the Office of the Provost decided to test the change for two years. If class absenteeism did not increase on Monday and Tuesday, then the schedule would be implemented for the foreseeable future.

Based on a survey of professors, “there was no noticeable change.” According to executive assistant to the provost Heidi Rienstra, there may even have been less absenteeism on Thanksgiving Tuesday than on previous Thanksgiving Wednesdays.

But, in 2015, classes concluded on Nov. 25: a Wednesday. Several students desperately missed the extra travel time:

“If I want to spend a reasonable amount of time with my family without feeling rushed or crunched for time, I have to travel out on Tuesday,” said junior Alex Kuipers, who drives twelve hours home to Sinking Spring, PA, to celebrate. “Basically, if I’m driving on Wednesday, I wake up tired — because [Wednesday] was exhausting. … It’s a holiday, and you want to enjoy it with your family.”

Last year’s situation, said the Office of the Provost, resulted from the unusually late placement of Labor Day. The academic calendar must contain a certain number of days in order to meet accreditation standards, a difficult task for years like 2015, when the holiday fell on Sept. 7.

“In any year that Labor Day falls very late, the college would hold classes on Thanksgiving Wednesday in order to keep fall exams from ending too close to Christmas,” said Provost Cheryl Brandsen.

For many Michiganders and Chicagolanders, a Thanksgiving Wednesday off is pleasant, though not particularly needed.

“I like it,” said sophomore Liesl Bruxvoort, a Michigan resident. “It’s helpful for me to get my head in order.”

Junior Jason Shields, who returns to his hometown of Chicago for holidays, said getting home in time is “not a huge worry. I’ll get there when I get there.”

But, for students with farther-away hometowns, the Wednesday off relieves some of the stress of an already-packed weekend.

“Driving home takes a half-day for me,” said junior Rae Gernant. Reaching her family home in Des Moines, IA, requires about eight hours of the day — not counting stops for food or gas. “If I was to only have Thursday and Friday off, I would probably get home really, really late on Wednesday.”

“Personally, I like the Thanksgiving Eve day off because it truly gives … international students like me a time of relaxation from academics and school in general,” said junior Jin Soo Park. “Many of us travel to our American friends’ homes for Thanksgiving, and it is truly a great experience for us to taste American Thanksgiving dinner, and be at a home for a long weekend.”

Though many public universities, including Michigan State University, recess for the entire week of Thanksgiving, Calvin will continue to hold classes on Monday, Nov. 21 and Tuesday, Nov. 22.

“The academic calendar is designed first and foremost to foster student learning,” said Brandsen. A weeklong Thanksgiving break would break up the most academically intense part of the semester.

Kuipers actually proposes this high-stress timing as an argument for an extended class recess: “Freshman year, I didn’t get a chance to go home for Thanksgiving. I had never been more tired or more in need of a break. I remembered just being exhausted at the end of the semester. I barely concentrated on my studies because I wanted to go home.”

As discussions about the Thanksgiving schedule continue, students look forward to celebrating the break, however long it lasts.