More time for turkey: Students react to academic calendar change

By Kristen Leonard

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

For students who have looked at the University of Massachusetts’ academic calendar – perhaps to count down the days until a spring break vacation – it may have caught one’s eye that there is a longer break for Thanksgiving this year.

Previously, Thanksgiving break was only from the Thursday of Thanksgiving to through Sunday. Some professors would cancel classes on that Wednesday for the convenience of students who are traveling or even for their own travel plans, but students of those professors who decided to have class that Wednesday had to face the horrors of the-day-before-Thanksgiving traffic.

This year, Thanksgiving recess is set to begin Sunday, Nov. 20, with classes resuming the following Monday, Nov. 28.

Over the years, this potential roadblock in making it home in time for the holidays without a headache has prompted change of the length of the break. The Academic Calendar Committee, a subcommittee of the Academic Matters Council, is in charge of making such decisions about the master calendar.

According to John Lenzi, the University Registrar, the “calendars are reviewed annually and are approved by the Academic Matters Council.” Once reviewed and approved, the proposed calendar is sent to the Faculty Senate and is put to vote.

However, there are consequences attached with the benefits of the prolonged break. For example, winter break now starts later than usual, closer to Christmas Eve. This could cause problems for students who fly home for the holidays as ticket prices tend to increase during the popular travel week.

Jordan Kaplan, a junior computer systems engineering major, lives in Florida and is among students who have to take a plane to get home. He expresses that he would not be affected by price increases in flights because he has break housing and could stay longer at UMass if necessary and if “finances were tougher.” Kaplan agrees with this calendar change expressing that he can be with his family longer.

Colin Blake, an undeclared freshman, has the same opinion and states that Thanksgiving is a “huge holiday for a lot of people” and that it is important to spend time with family. He also adds that there is not “a huge holiday in May,” so he would rather have the week for an important family holiday in November, and would not mind getting out later in May as a result.

But what about those students who live outside the United States and do not celebrate Thanksgiving? This calendar change is putting a strain on junior chemical engineering major Shuaib Balogun and his family.

Balogun is from Nigeria and a flight to Africa during Thanksgiving and Christmas would be too expensive. Balogun has to stay in the United States for Thanksgiving break since it is not a holiday to go home for. As a result, he now has to “miss spending the days that actually mean something to [him] and [his] family” and sadly has to spend Christmas in the airport.

Balogun suggests that if the authorities want to make Thanksgiving break longer then “we should start school earlier” so that the Christmas break remains the same as it has been in previous years. This is a common problem amongst other international students who are facing the same issues.

For those students who have to drive a long way home, the feelings are positive for the change. Junior public health major Julianne Hodgkins lives in New Jersey and faces the nightmare of holiday travel every year. “The traffic is terrible to get home to where I live. It took me six hours to get home last year when it normally takes me three hours, so I am overjoyed that the break is longer this year,” she said.

On the other hand, some people may be neutral to the change. “It does not matter to me how long Thanksgiving break is,” said Emily Azadnia, a senior psychology major. She does add, however, that she would “rather have a longer Christmas break than a Thanksgiving break” because Thanksgiving is “only a day.”

Once this semester passes, there will be a better idea of the over general consensus of the calendar change. If there is a lot of positive feedback, this could be the new schedule for the Master Calendar every year at UMass. More time for travel, more time for turkey.

Kristen Leonard can be reached at [email protected]