In a meeting last week, members of the Yale College Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of creating a fall break for students next year. Taking a reading period day here and adding an extra day of classes there, the Council’s finely wrought proposal manages to piece together just enough time for a long weekend at home or in New Haven right in the middle of midterms.
And sure, now that they mention it, a fall break does seem like a good idea. Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell have them. So why not Yale?
Of course, it is difficult to imagine that students were begging their YCC representatives for this — and impossible to tell since the YCC never held a referendum or sent an e-mail to gauge student interest. But it is also difficult to imagine someone saying no to a few days off when the weather is starting to get cold and the reading is starting to pile up. If there were free hand soap in residential college bathrooms, there is little doubt students would happily take advantage of that too.
The proposal, passed two Sundays ago by a 21-1 margin, calls for a break that would last from Saturday Oct. 25 through Tuesday Oct. 28, 2003. To make up the lost class time, reading period would shrink to six days from seven, and the fall semester would extend one day longer.
Administrators, presumably, are still reeling from the chaos of scheduling classes around Martin Luther King Jr. Day last semester, when a Friday became a Monday for one week and then Monday was Friday for another. The fall break proposal seems likely to be an equally daunting prospect for those in the Undergraduate Registrar’s office charged with setting the yearly academic calendar.
But students should not just consider the complicated fall break proposal and then fondly reminisce about the times when the YCC voted on small, useful proposals that responded directly to clear — and clearly expressed — student needs. Just because this does not resemble the great refrigerator storage campaign of last year, when the YCC sprang into action after college masters declared summer storage would be limited, does not mean it should be disregarded.
The YCC can and should handle bigger issues, too — even particularly ambitious ones or ones about which few people have expressly asked.
Perhaps this will ultimately go the way of the liquid soap dispenser plan of 2001, which likewise seemed to create and then attempt to address a student need. Perhaps in the future the YCC will make an effort to poll students before passing its most far-reaching proposals. Perhaps students will make more of an effort to communicate their problems, and perhaps representatives will make more of an effort to solicit suggestions.
But for now, the YCC has taken to spending much of its time looking for, anticipating and perhaps creating student needs. And while that does not mean the proposed fall break is any less of a compelling idea, it does mean it is a less pressing one.