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What you can do to help the Fall Breather pass

Last month, the University Academic Senate (UAS) vetoed the Student Senate’s proposal to instate a Fall Break. In lieu of this veto, Dean Antczak of the College of Liberal Sciences (CLAS) is advocating for a “Fall Breather.” During this Breather, professors would be encouraged not to assign homework the weekend before the drop deadline. The logistics of the Breather are further explored in Sarah Hillenbrand’s article, “Take a fall breather.” Why do I think the Fall Breather plan is a good one? Because the eleven weeks between Labor Day break and Thanksgiving Break hit students with an unrelenting wave of exams, essays, and semester projects. As a student, it’s easy to get caught in the undertow of academic production around this time and feel only as valuable as the grades you receive. For first year and non-traditional students unaccustomed to the demands of Academia, this constant rigor can cause side-effects like hopelessness, apathy, and burn-out. This stress often transfers over from mind to body, impacting students’ immune systems during a time period where “ain’t nobody got time” to be sick. A humanitarian institution such as the university would do well to consider the physical and emotional needs of its students by implementing a break. Here, the argument transcends a bunch of lazy college students vying for a weekend to spend some quality time with their neglected Netflix accounts. Rather, I argue that if true engagement with learning is the end goal of education, then overworking students may not be the best way to meet this end. The Fall Breather could be one small step toward curbing student burn-out. The theory here is that given a hiatus, students will return to their studies rejuvenated. By piloting the Fall Breather in upcoming years, instructors will be able to analyze whether or not a stress-free weekend influences retention rates and student enthusiasm. So, you may ask, what can students do to advocate for the Fall Breather? Well, it’s all about student and faculty culture. Dean Antczak proposed the Fall Breather to the CLAS Faculty Council, whom he reported unanimously voted to give the Breather a pilot run. That being said, other colleges and departments have the choice whether or not to join the bandwagon. The Breather is a grassroots movement, or nothing at all. The change toward a Fall Breather then must be seeded by dialogue between students and faculty. The Student Senate has expressed desire to push for the Fall Breather. Students can support the endeavors of their senators by visiting their office hours and asking how to best help out. Furthermore, student-run academic organizations can help the movement by coordinating with faculty members within their departments. Faculty members can discuss the possibilities of a homework-free weekend with their colleagues and administrators. Another option comes to students through the example of past controversies, such as gender-neutral housing, where success was only secured by means of student protest. If you support the movement, but don’t have the time to protest or visit office hours, I advocate for an email barrage. There is no more American practice than protesting behind a computer screen. Nevertheless, well-worded emails sent to the right person can be effective in high quantities. You can even send your response letters to our Lanthorn staff. Often the standards set by university culture are nearly hegemonic, unchallenged by students and faculty members alike. It’s easy to slip into the mindset which accepts the system as “the way things are,” but the truth is, there are opportunities to challenge the status quo, especially in Academia, which claims to value independent thinking. We ought not merely accept the system handed to us, especially if this system’s standards are antithetical to the needs of true learning. That being said, Dean Antczak and the Student Senate cannot enact change on their own. It took Student Senators several years to pass Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, which we celebrated last Winter. Change will be slow unless students and faculty work hard to advocate for their needs. “The burden of proof,” Antczak says, “lies on those who want change. Here’s a chance to take up that burden.”



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