A bad change in schedule
Something just does not seem quite right. For those of us who have been at UMass for almost four years now, and even for juniors and sophomores who have been introduced to the normally long UMass winter break, it feels strange to be walking into our third day of classes so soon. The Pioneer Valley has been awakened from its winter slumber a little earlier than usual and students at UMass and the rest of the Five Colleges are worse off for it. From a strangely constructed winter term here at UMass, to confusing schedules for the other colleges, UMass has restructured its spring semester. It would serve itself well to realign its scheduling with that of the entire Five College system.
It is true that summer will start sooner now with final exams ending on May 13 and for graduating seniors, school’s out forever on May 15. Few will complain about starting summer – beginning a new job or entering the real world – a week early. Another benefit is that the other colleges typically end earlier than UMass. UMass is typically the last school to wrap up all its examinations, meaning UMass students sometimes get out too late to participate in certain internships. Lastly, something anyone who has suffered the heat in the dorms can understand: Leaving the Pioneer Valley earlier means less time spent sweltering in dorms with the heat strangely turned on regardless of the outside temperature.
Still, personally I have not encountered an internship that I could not apply for because it started too early. Oftentimes, internships have flexible dates in my personal experience, so the internship benefit may be overstated. The primary reason that UMass should be on its normal schedule is for the benefit of the entire Five College system.
Now, I am not one to be too concerned with the welfare of poor Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mt. Holyoke College and Smith College students, but what is fair is fair. Each school ends around the same time, but for some reason, UMass is alone in starting early. This means that students from those schools who wish to take classes at UMass will have to be moved in and at school a week early. If UMass is any example, moving in day is usually the weekend before school starts and moving in early or having a nine month dorm is more expensive. As a participant in the Five College system it is up to each school to arrange its schedule so that no student is negatively affected; UMass is not playing its due part.
While its role in the Five College system is reason enough for UMass to stick to a similar class schedule, there are other reasons for going back to school later. As all who have sweated through even one layer of clothing while lying still on a dorm room bed know, the heating system at UMass should not be considered optimal by any means. Regardless of the temperature outside, the heat is on. Regardless of the temperature of the dorm, be it 100 degrees, the heat is on.
This makes zero sense, both economically and environmentally.
The cost of energy and the need to reduce dependence upon fossil fuels has risen so much that Deval Patrick’s administration has invested a million dollars to help the construction of four new wood burning power plants in Western Massachusetts. Now that is a backwards idea if there ever was one. Sending students back into dorms and into off-campus housing for another week in the middle of what always is a brutal Western Massachusetts winter is surely prohibitively costly and a waste of energy. At least in May, the heat is not on.
I always enjoyed being among the last students to trek back to college after winter break was over. It meant we could work for an extra week or relax before school began. College is much less fun in the winter anyway, as that twenty minute walk to Puffton from campus or that eight minute walk up to the bars from Main Street becomes much more intimidating when the wind chill is below zero. Partying in May is much more enjoyable, but there is more to it than just being able to party in shorts and tee shirts. UMass, as part of the Five College program, should not penalize the students of the other schools in the area by starting earlier. Going back to school a week earlier makes zero sense economically, environmentally academically and socially. Whose idea was it anyway?
Nick Milano is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.