Shortened reading week builds stress

Students review for finals in lower-level Bass during reading period.
Students review for finals in lower-level Bass during reading period. Photo by Sara Miller.

For the first time since it was instated over 30 years ago, reading week will no longer last a full week.

With fall break’s addition to the academic calendar, reading week will only last for three school days this year — down from five last year. Though administrators said the change eliminates the days when students typically do little work, students said the change adds stress to the term’s end. Even so, the majority of students interviewed said fall break, which offers a reprieve from the long stretch between the beginning of the school year and Thanksgiving, makes up for the shortened reading period.

“I think having fall break is worth having to suffer through this shortened period at the end of the term,” Daniel Roza ’15 said. “The psychological benefits of having fall recess to break up the semester were important, and most students squander the first few days of reading week anyways. This shortened time will make us more productive.”

Reading period runs from Monday to Wednesday this year, with exams beginning on Thursday and lasting six days, down from eight days last year. Administrators interviewed said they altered the academic calendar in part to equalize the number of school days in the formerly imbalanced fall and spring semesters, and also to create more time in the fall term for orientation activities.

Both Council of Masters Chair Jonathan Holloway and University Secretary and Vice President for Student Affairs Kimberly Goff-Crews said that they do not think the shortened reading period will have a large effect on students’ studying schedules.

“For a long time, we’ve recognized that students play around for one or two days during reading period, so it’s pretty low-risk to go from a weeklong reading period to a shorter one,” Holloway said.

Goff-Crews added that she thinks most students “party and have fun” at the beginning of reading period and only buckle down later in the week.

Nine out of 15 students said fall break is worth the shortened reading period, even though they have less time to complete final assignments and study for exams.

Paul Holmes ’14 said his class schedule is “front-loaded” so his end-of-semester crunch time is less severe than usual. He added that the academic year is “way better” with the added fall break.

Still, some students said fall break was more appealing in October than it is now, with deadlines fast approaching.

“I appreciated fall break earlier this semester, but now I would definitely trade the recess for an extra few days of reading period if I could,” Laura Cremer ’13 said. “Because of the shorter reading period, a lot of my final essays and exams come within one to two days of each other.”

Martha Glodz ’15 said she would rather have a shorter fall break, or no fall break at all, if reading period could be restored to its previous length, because the compressed schedule is “just too stressful.”

Fall semester classes end at 5:30 p.m. today, and winter break begins Dec. 18.

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