GVSU students, administrators seek a fall break

By Jess Hodge | 10/19/16 11:13pm


Seventy-six days. That’s how long Grand Valley State University students have from Labor Day break until Thanksgiving break.

For years, Frederick Antczak, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science (CLAS), along with the support of student senate, has supported the idea of a fall breather.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Fall colors spread through Grand Valley's campus Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.

The fall breather, which takes place Oct. 21-23 this year, is a weekend where students are not assigned any new homework or projects.

Antczak has long-supported the idea of the breather, but would like to have an actual fall break with days off class to help relieve the impact of the stress on both students and faculty and staff.

“The way the fall semester is set up, we have to go about 11 and 1/2 weeks straight and after midterms, people begin to grind down physically. There are more people who are just emotionally are tired and stressed out,” Antczak said. “You can see the difference if you’re in the classroom between winter semester students after spring break and in fall semester students who don’t have a break.”

However, the idea of the fall breather has rarely caught on in past years, with some faculty members not participating. As it is, only CLAS professors are invited to participate in the fall breather, and there are no repercussions if a professor chooses to assign homework during the fall breather weekend. Antczak emphasized the importance of student influence and how big of a role students play in getting professors to take the fall breather.

“The purpose of fall breather is to at least give people a weekend where either they have no work to do and they can relax,” Antczak said. “Or with no homework getting in their way, they can catch up if they’re behind.

“It’s a way of reducing panic.”

While the fall breather has no effect on the academic calendar, taking a scheduled fall break would change the registrar's office calendar immensely. Antczak said although changes would have to be made - like starting earlier, ending one day later or coming back the Tuesday after Labor Day- it’s worth it.

“It’s an absolutely valid concern to make it all match up so that you have an equal number of Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays,” he said. “You can’t compromise.”

The fall break would arguably need much more work, Antczak said, predicting the break would need to be scheduled a year in advance to finagle the calendar around to see what dates work and what don’t. He thinks GVSU administrators are more than capable of finding a schedule configuration that would work.

“I think the fall breather, in order to work, had to be planned for and even then, a given student not have all of his or her teachers participate,” he said. “It still can be good, but it's not going to have impact if one of any number of little things go wrong.”

Antczak did recognize the difficulty a fall break would impose on certain majors, like those in the science field that have clinical dates set.

“Especially if you’re in a clinical setting, (I) can well understand how it might be inconvenient for a given class,” he said. “What I don’t understand as well is how they would extrapolate that to all the classes in all the departments to all the colleges at Grand Valley.”

Antczak thinks a fall break is in GVSU’s near feature, stating the student body pushing for the break to happen has been a driving force.

“I think that there are so forces in favor that it's bound to happen,” he said. “It’s, for the most part, feasible, it’s just not the ideal.”

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