GVSU students need a more regulated fall breather
Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, Grand Valley State University students don't get a formal break from their classes. Unlike at many other colleges that have an official fall break sometime in October to give students a reprieve from their studies, GVSU students have to power through midterms all the way to the official start of the holiday season.
There's a reason that students tend to get sick in droves at this point in the semester. With the stress of midterms and the lack of a real break afterward, students get worn out and run down. That long stretch of time causes students to feel mentally and physically depleted. The lack of sleep, excess of energy drinks and piles of stress-inducing homework take their toll.
At least one individual college within GVSU realizes how detrimental this lack of a break can be on students' work performance and health, both physical and mental. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) asks its faculty to consider not assigning their students any homework for one weekend in October. This year, the proposed "fall breather" lands on the weekend of Oct. 21 through Oct. 22, shortly before the class drop deadline Friday, Oct. 27. Per the recommendation, issued officially from CLAS Dean Fred Antczak, the idea is not to cut back on the semester's workload but rather to redistribute it.
The issue with this recommendation is just that: it's a recommendation, nothing more. As is, only CLAS officially suggests a fall breather, and even then, it is not mandatory for professors to participate.
To be fair, GVSU makes up for its lack of a fall break in other areas. For example, we get an extra day off for Labor Day weekend, which makes it much easier to travel out of town to visit family and friends. In addition, our winter semesters end an entire week earlier than many other universities'. GVSU students certainly aren't complaining about these benefits that are a direct result of a missing fall break.
Adding a fall break to the academic calendar would throw GVSU's otherwise-perfect schedule out of a whack. Students need to determine collectively if this will ultimately be worth it to them. Given how stressed, tired and sick students become this time of year, it seems reasonable to assume that many people would be on board with some sort of restructuring.
Even if GVSU administration declined to adjust its academic calendar, a streamlined, uniform version of the fall breather initiative might alleviate the problem. This program should extend beyond CLAS, and the university should at least consider making professorial involvement mandatory. That way, no changes would need to be made to the official academic calendar (there would no official school days off), but students in every department would at least have a weekend theoretically free from homework. This would at least be a start as GVSU continues to consider the relative merit of official calendar changes.