Some of the greatest discoveries in history have been accidental. The apple fell on Newton’s head and, voila, gravity. A Swiss inventor noticed the hook-like shape of burrs when pulling them off his dog, inspiring him to create Velcro. A blind monk named Dom Pierre Perignon invented champagne while tinkering with insufficiently fermented wine. Likewise, Yale administrators discovered that two weeks after Thanksgiving break are better than one.
OK, that is not the entire truth. The two weeks we have after Thanksgiving are not merely accidental, but instead the result of a complex formula. The calendar gods have to be happy and the scheduling stars have to align just right for Yale to start on the first Wednesday of September instead of the last Wednesday of August. Labor Day has to fall late, Thanksgiving has to be on the right date, and Yale must still be able to fit its required number of class days in all that, according to Associate Dean John Meeske, Yale’s scheduling guru.
But don’t we go to Yale? We have kids who are going to cure cancer, four Rhodes scholars in the senior class and even Steven Spielberg’s son. Surely we can figure out some way to make this work. In the spirit of Kant’s Copernican revolution, let’s make the calendar conform to our needs instead of the other way around.
The benefits of having two weeks after Thanksgiving break are both physical and psychological. In other years, The Game was a bittersweet adventure. Sure, you could get smashed (well, not this year), but it also signaled the end of the fall semester. It meant that right after you got back from break, you would have one hellacious week of catching up with all your friends while simultaneously working on papers due before reading period. It also meant that if you did not get started on at least one of your papers over break, you were in for a nightmare upon returning. In the cataclysm of the end of the fall semester, reading week followed the week after break, then finals, and then you did not see your friends again for a month.
But this year, things were good. We took Peter Pan buses up to The Game and watched gleefully as Yale beat the crap out of Harvard, while simultaneously trading in little pieces of plastic from our wristbands for beverages. Then we returned to our faraway homes, sad that we were not at Yale, but happy that we could largely slack off over break, which is what you’re supposed to do. Maybe you did a little reading or paper planning, but that was all. Then, upon returning to sunny New Haven, we had a week to hear about all of our friends’ crazy stories from over break (read: Eat pumpkin bread. Nap. Repeat.) and work on assignments. This week, we are handing in papers and somehow still taking midterms, but everything is alright. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this situation every fall?
There are also benefits to starting school a week later at the other end of the calendar. A late August start requires you to arrive on campus in the third week of August, which largely disrupts your plans for that month. With an early September start, however, you can spend the entire month of August doing something else, like an internship, or going on vacation with your family. Considering that the trade-off for this luxury is coming home a week later after finals in the fall term, surely students would not mind.
I know there are people in the administration who have thought about this a lot more than I have. In fact, there is a “calendar committee” that does just that. (They have politely declined my request to join.) The point is that campus life has been much better this term as a result of having two weeks after Thanksgiving. I do not know all the logistics, but I am sure students would be willing to end fall or spring semester a week later to make it work. Those are downtimes anyway, whereas now is the big crunch. Let’s make this happen. In the meantime, enjoy your week.
Steven Engler is a senior in Saybrook College. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.