“I’ll just save it for Fall Break” is a common mantra strolling through many UR students’ minds come mid-October, whether that “it” is schoolwork, social engagements or perhaps some long overdue loads of laundry.
It’s the “fall break” part of this statement, however, that posed a problem for students in the past.
In comparison to other breaks during the year, Fall Break used to feel more like a small fracture, having consisted of only one extra day off instead of a week or more. This absence of vacation time has long irked many students.
“It’s one day,” senior Adina Rubinoff said. “I don’t know why they even bother … Since they call it a break, like spring break, it feels like we should be getting more [days off].”
Many students also can’t see the point of going home or taking a trip for only a three-day weekend.
“Going home just doesn’t make sense,” sophomore Ikey Ben-Simhon said. “One day doesn’t give you enough time to go anywhere outside the vicinity of Rochester.”
These qualms will soon be a thing of the past, however, since on Nov. 3, a two-day fall break was approved by the College Deans’ office, a change that students will be able to enjoy starting in the 2011-2012 academic year. It seems that the strong opinions of the students have paid off, according to the observations of Richard Feldman, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who was largely involved in the process since the beginning.
“It wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the initiative of the students,” he said.
Proposals for extending fall break were initiated for the first time in October 2008 by the SA Senate, but were halted after only a year of discussion when a number of issues arose.
One of the most pressing of these was the necessity of a much earlier start date for the academic year, among other constraints including making sure there would be plenty of time for final exams.
“Starting [the fall semester] around Labor Day and ending with enough time for students to be home in time for the winter holidays are very stringent bookends,” Students’ Association President and junior Scott Strenger said.
Past SA President Eric Weissmann ’10 worked on the proposals for an extended period of time before Strenger completed the process this semester. After a few more setbacks in the spring of 2010, a final proposal was reached with close communication between the SA and a faculty council, which also included the decision to incorporate a set three-day reading period before first semester finals.
Two years may seem like a rather extensive time period to discuss just one extra day, but Strenger claims there was nothing abnormal about the process.
“To be cliché, Rush Rhees Library was not built in a day,” he said.
Feldman has a similar outlook.
“[The process] took a while,” he said. “But it’s common for significant decisions to take some time for us to work our way through them.”
As with every major change, there may be sacrifices to be made as a result of it.
Because of this extra day, for instance, there may be years when it is necessary to start the semester a few days earlier than it usually does.
“Some people might have a preference for a slightly later start date, [but] any time there’s a change it’s a minor inconvenience,” Feldman noted, referencing the fact that the earlier dates might have the potential to interfere with professors’ research.
It appears students are relatively optimistic about some of the opportunities that will come out of having this second day.
“[I’m] so ecstatic I cannot even describe it in words,” sophomore Jay Ricciardi declared.
Many students, however, are more apathetic when it comes to  the decision.
“I think it’ll help  —  it’s not going to hurt,” sophomore Emily Kasman said. “[I’m] … fairly neutral, [but] you’re never going to complain about a break.”
Only time will be able to tell whether this change will significantly benefit the student body, but there is definite optimism in the air from the SA.
“At this point in the semester students can benefit in numerous ways from attending academic conferences, going to alternative fall break trips, or just hanging on campus and catching up on some much needed relaxation,” Strenger said.
According to Feldman, present day UR students do seem to have gotten a fairly pleasant deal.
“In the early days we just went straight through to Thanksgiving,” he said.
Goldin is a member of
the class of 2013.

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