Reading period: not just R&R

Sarah Morton

To many Lawrence students, reading period means time to unwind, visit home, meet with professors, and catch up on work that may have fallen by the wayside. Although students enjoy many benefits from reading period, few know how reading period originated or what its specific use is at Lawrence.
Reading period originated when a faculty committee studied the academic calendar and, after considering to the amount of homework, studying, and projects demanded by classes, voted to grant students and faculty a recess from their schedules to reflect on the academic experience. However, they believed that this break from classes should be a time to catch up on studying and work on major projects that may have been pushed aside in the hectic pace of day-to-day life -not a mere vacation. Hence, this time off from classes is referred to as “reading period” rather than fall break.
Reading period also serves as a time to meet with advisers and professors to discuss how students handle life and learning at Lawrence. The first year that reading period became an institution at Lawrence was also the year that adviser meetings for first-year students became the norm. Originally, reading period spanned Thursday through Monday, but it was reduced to its current form when both faculty and students agreed that four days were sufficient time for reflection.
Although some view reading period as detrimental because many students use it only for relaxation purposes, most people enjoy the opportunity to decompress, catch up on work at their own pace, and meet with advisers.
Professor Elizabeth DeStasio explains, “I like having the time set aside to meet with advisees. It also affords students some time to ‘catch up.’ I am concerned that so many students use reading period as a time to leave campus, thus exacerbating the stress of a fast-paced term, something the reading periods were designed to reduce.”
Both students and faculty benefit from the extra time for study and reflection granted by reading period. Professor John Daniel states, “I certainly took advantage of the opportunity to get caught up. I think it is a good thing.”
Martha Hemwall, dean of student academic services, adds that “overall, people appreciate this as a reflective time, for both students and faculty.”
The Calendar Committee review this spring will decide the fate of reading period at Lawrence. The Calendar Committee is debating whether Lawrence will remain on the three-term calendar or switch to a ten-week fall and spring term with two five-week winter terms in between. In this system, students would benefit from a week-long fall break, which would provide time for relaxation and studying, possibly eliminating the need for reading period.