It’s week five, but it feels like a lifetime has passed since the first day of class. The daunting reality that our next break isn’t until Thanksgiving feels like running a marathon at the pace of a sprint. In recent memory, we have never had a fall break at UT.
For freshmen and full time students with jobs, a fall semester break would be the perfect way to relieve stress in the middle of the semester and a great opportunity to visit family for those who feel homesick.
Many students, like Human Development and Family Sciences junior Stephen Portillo, would prefer a shorter break in the summer if it meant getting a break in the fall. Portillo is busy taking 15 hours and works about 35 hours a week.
“I’m really homesick, and I want to see family, but I have to wait two more months until Thanksgiving break,” Portillo said.
If overly busy students get one or two days to recharge in the fall, they could potentially be happier. Additionally, out-of-state students would have an opportunity to visit home before Thanksgiving — they don’t have the same option for a quick drive home as in-state students. We should not underestimate the need for students to be home with families, especially during mentally tough semesters.
Vice Provost and Registrar Shelby Stanfield says that changes made to our calendar are determined by the academic calendar principles, and the common calendar rules set by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The school calendar must have the correct number of M/W/F and T/TH classes, and the semester must end by Dec. 23. “There are a lot of issues and considerations regarding implementing a … fall break,” Stanfield said.
A fall break is not ideal for everyone. In the past, STEM departments opposed an amendment for an October fall break. Labs in these colleges have very strict, time sensitive procedures, which need full weeks of class to follow.
Despite the difficulties in working within a research university’s structured timeline, there is still room for improvements. According to the Texas common calendar, we could have started school on Aug. 30. It makes more sense to start school sooner and to use those days during more stressful times in the semester instead. For example, we aren’t required to have Labor Day off — A&M attends class that day. Instead, we should have a long weekend later in the fall. It is nonsensical to have Labor Day off right after a three day week.
If Ivy League universities are able to institute fall breaks, we can too. For students like Portillo and myself, I’m asking that we keep the conversation going about how we can best serve the students at UT. If we can’t rearrange lab schedules, STEM students should be granted permission to complete labs during the fall break if necessary.
It’s time to put our students first. Let’s find a way to help students nurture their basic need — time to take a breath and hug our loved ones.
Alarcon is a UTeach Liberal Arts student from Austin.