Calendar changes leave little room for studying

Deborah Levinson

Lawrence University has been changing its calendar in recent years. Last year we experienced an extended December break, which we will have the opportunity to love or hate again this year.
But this fall, as students began to make travel plans to go home over breaks, they may have realized something else has changed.
Reading period before finals has been cut to fewer days – or just moved to the weekend. The number of days reserved for finals has been reduced from four to three. We will now have the opportunity to take finals on Saturdays and Sundays.
Students will note that the two-day reading period before finals this November includes a Saturday. In March we only have one day for reading period, a Thursday, and in May we have three days, Saturday through Monday, but only because of Memorial Day.
I do understand the appeal of all this. We start later in September than most schools but still don’t have school between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. And at the end of the year, we get kicked out June 3, much earlier than usual for Lawrence and much closer to the average college schedule. This calendar maximizes our vacation time, saves the school a little money and gives faculty time to do their research.
But these benefits are outweighed when you look at the potential repercussions.
I can understand the two-day reading period – it’s not completely new to this year. But what is new is that these two days include a Saturday, and I have exams on a Sunday. When am I supposed to de-stress, relax and pull it together to study?
In May, when our reading period is also a three-day weekend for the entire country, that’s a great time to study. Shouldn’t we be celebrating Memorial Day, honoring those who died fighting for us? No, we should be studying.
This spring we have one day to study before exams. We have class through Wednesday and finals start Friday. Good luck with that.
How is the university going to brag about the academic accomplishments of its students unless we have time to study? I know that a single day for studying is just not going to cut it.
And no, I’m not going to put off all my studying until that one day. But the whole point of reading period is that I can just study. I have class during the week and commitments every weekend; reading period exists solely for us to study.
This whole one-day reading period would be more acceptable in my mind if we had exams on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. We’d have a weekend to study for the majority of our exams.
But that’s not how it works, of course. Our exams are the weekend. And then we leave for spring break, which has been cut down by two days to accommodate our weekend exams.
I can complain about the calendar forever, but what I think really needs to be taken into account is the academic repercussions of the changes. If the vacation time we gain is that essential, cut mid-term reading period by a day. I love my mid-term break just as much as everyone else, but I also love succeeding in my classes, which gets hard to do when you have no time to study.