Within the Ivy League, Yale is the object of envy when it comes to spring break.
While the seven other Ivies break for anywhere from five to eight class days in the spring, Yale is the only Ivy that takes off 10 class days — a full two weeks overall. Yale’s two-week spring break was first introduced in 1867, according to University records from the era, and University administrators said it is here to stay.
Today, the extended break gives students one week of vacation time and one week to catch up on work, said University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer, who appoints and sits on Yale’s calendar committee. She added that many students and faculty have told her that they prefer this calendar arrangement to that of other colleges and universities.
“In all my time here, there has never been any proposal to change the vacation from two weeks to one week,” Lorimer said.
The earliest recorded spring break in the Catalogue of the Officers and Students in Yale College (a predecessor to Yale’s Blue Book) was in 1822, when students were granted four weeks off in May after completing their spring term and before resuming class in June. The four-week spring breaks continued until the 1850s, when administrators reduced spring break to three weeks. The catalog “earnestly advised” parents not to allow their sons to remain at school during the recess.
The two-week spring break was introduced in 1867, according to the Catalogue. During the 1910s and 1920s, spring break — then called Easter recess — shrank to one week before permanently returning to two weeks in 1933.
While Yale students can now take advantage of the extended vacation to travel greater distances to go home or go on vacation, Gaddis Smith ’54 GRD ’61, the Larned Professor Emeritus of History, said it was too expensive for students to travel overseas before the advent of jet planes in the 1960s, and that the Cold War made travel to China and the Soviet Union impossible.
“The homes of students were much more geographically concentrated,” Smith said of his time as an undergraduate. “New York was where most students were from.”
John Meeske ’74, the associate dean for physical resources and planning and a member of the calendar committee, said taking two weeks instead of one does not impact the cost of maintaining the University. If the calendar committee ever decided to shorten spring break to just one week, he said, summer vacation would just start one week earlier.
Meeske said the process of determining the dates for spring break is “formulaic”: It begins after the bulk of midterm exams, which typically take place after the eighth week of classes. The dates of spring break vary depending on when spring semester starts, he added.
“There is variation from year to year depending when Labor Day falls,” Meeske said. “If we start [fall semester] before Labor Day, we end the term earlier — and we start up earlier in January.”
All of the 20 students interviewed said they prefer two weeks of spring break to the alternative of beginning summer one week earlier, and three of the students said they think summer vacation already has an early start.
Adam Verreault ’12 added that he likes the two-week spring break because it allows for him both to travel and to catch up on homework, something that would be difficult if he had only one week off. Raquel Guarino ’13 agreed.
“After midterms, you really need it,” she said.
Nora Caplan-Bricker contributed reporting.
Correction: March 6, 2010
An earlier version of this article misreported the class year of Raquel Guarino ’13.