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Fall break would slow productivity

Nov. 6, 1997

By Dr. C.W. Christian, Department of Religion

He was a second-semester sophomore and he had just made a dismaying discovery. The faculty -- so his upper-class friends had told him -- was the chief obstacle to the realization of a fall break. He had come to me, his Old Testament professor, to ask if it were true. He had assumed that the Baylor faculty, so widely known for its interest in the well-being of students, would have pity and would be leading the move toward a fall break.

Putting aside for a moment the question whether the Baylor faculty actually has any significant power in the shaping of university policy, was his discovery true? Does the faculty look with disfavor on a fall break? I have never known the Baylor faculty to be in perfect agreement on anything and I doubt that such agreement exists on the matter in question. Perhaps the younger faculty members, who went to colleges where extended breaks were the policy, would be more sympathetic to the idea than older professors who did not. Nevertheless, my own discussions with colleagues have tended to confirm the sophomore's fears. Most faculty seem to look on the notion of a fall break with jaundiced eye. Why?

One reason is the absence of any substantial argument in its favor. Once again the annual hue and cry has begun and the same weary reasons are being put forth: we need it to 'relieve the monotony of the fall semester,' or because 'we get tired,' or 'we get stressed out!' But sadly, they all reduce to one thing: 'we want it!' This no doubt is true, but doesn't such an appeal sound a bit juvenile? I could paraphrase the Lariat headline to read, 'Despite student desires, some students still making Bs and Cs.' There are many things in life that we desire, but one of the marks of a mature person is the ability to distinguish between wants and needs and the willingness to discipline wants by responsibilities.

Certainly college is stressful -- for students and professors alike. Life in general and employment in particular are stressful. The employee who begins to agitate for the closing down of business because he or she has been on the job a steady six weeks and finds it monotonous is not likely to build up a substantial retirement account with that company. The answer to stress is to learn to handle it; the answer to weariness is to simplify life, to reduce unnecessary commitments and to get more sleep.

One of the reasons why faculty flinch at the suggestion of a fall break is revealed in one student comment in the Lariat. 'In the spring,' he is quoted as saying, 'we have fifty breaks; I don't see why we can't have at least one in the fall.'Now, apart from his hyperbole he has unawaringly put his finger on the heart of faculty reluctance. We are, after all, here for educational purposes and the spring semester, as now constituted, is an academic disaster.

Few students would deny this. The semester, barely underway, suffers the distraction of spring break. It is hard enough to recapture student attention after break, but it is followed almost at once -- this year in only 19 class days -- by the five-day Easter break and then by Diadeloso. Add to this the academic distractions of pledging, 'Sing' and spring fever and the semester is pretty well done in. And each break tempts many students to take additional days before or after.

Furthermore, all efforts to improve this situation, such as combining Break and Easter or even moving Diadeloso to a Saturday, have been firmly resisted by the students. Fifty breaks we haven't but what we have is enough to shatter course continuity and student concentration. And we need to make the same kind of academic mincemeat out of the fall semester? Thank you, No.

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