“Sprinterall”: Re-imagining the Lawrence calendar

By Andrea Johnson

On Wednesday, Oct. 22, there was morning frost on the ground. As my favorite TV show puts it: Winter is coming. And by winter, I mean bitching about the weather.

I don’t mean to imply that your Tweeted and Facebook-ed horror at the frost was ill-founded—although the frost did melt before 10 a.m. I empathize; after two winters on campus, I have trust issues with the weather. I never quite believe I don’t need a jacket outside, so I’ve sweated a lot this term. And sometimes the only way to cope is to post a moody Instagram photo.

But I do have a suggestion that would eradicate the need to bitch and moan because it would eradicate Winter Term altogether. Behold the spring-winter-fall school year: Spinall year? Sprinterall year? Oh dear, it’s starting to sound like a drug I might take while working on my next opinion piece. I’ll keep working on the name.

Humor aside for the moment, I think this is something that should be considered seriously. The ideal Lawrence school year, in my opinion, would begin a little earlier than Spring Term begins now, around the third week of March, and end just before Thanksgiving, like Fall Term does now. Each term would be separated by a two and a half week break. A long winter break would replace the long summer break.

As you take that in, I’ll address some of the objections I foresee.

“But what about winter sports?” you say.

The hockey and basketball teams are already here over winter break, so I don’t see a problem with letting that continue.

“But I want to have fun over the summer when the weather’s nice!” you say.

First, who said school can’t be fun? I refer you to “Pleasure yourself: Read a book,” my article from two weeks ago, if you need convincing. Second, who would you rather spend your summer with, high school friends you’re starting to kind of dread running into at the grocery store or your sweet-awesome, mature, big-question-asking college friends? And think how much better summer ORC trips would be compared to winter ORC trips.

“But I like our long winter break!” you say.

Do you? Do you really? Do you enjoy feeling bored out of your mind for the first four weeks of our break when no one else is home because their schools are on the semester calendar? Do you really like returning to the northern icy tundra the first week of January, still hung-over from New Year’s, while your friends from home are just getting started with their breaks? Most importantly, do you really enjoy having only a week and a half off between Winter and Spring Terms?

I think that’s something this school needs to think long and hard about. Having such a short spring break—especially in comparison to the winter break—makes Winter and Spring Terms feel like one monstrous, soul-crushing, 20-week semester. A week and a half is barely enough time to catch your breath, let alone catch up on sleep, buy next term’s textbooks and get some R&R.

Which brings me to the reasons I love the idea of Sprinterall year, the first of which is that there would be two and a half week breaks between the terms. This is enough time to do all the things you want to be able to do over a break—sleep, go on a vacation, get through your Netflix queue, never put on pants—without dragging on unnecessarily, like winter break does now.

Sprinterall year would be healthier. Winters in Wisconsin can literally make people sick, since bugs and viruses love preying on people who have to spend 99 percent of their time indoors together, sheltered from the -50° wind chill.

Also, Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression linked to seasonal changes, is a real problem on this campus where the wind blows, the river freezes and the sun makes nary an appearance for weeks on end.

Lawrence recognizes this problem and has tried to ameliorate it by placing SAD lamps around campus. But personally, as a Missouri native, the school can keep their SAD lamps; I’d rather just go home during the winter and get me some of that “southern” sun.

This brings me to the third reason I love Sprinterall year: It would make Lawrence—and I did the math on this—a bajillion times more appealing to out-of-state students. All of the out-of-towners I know didn’t come to Lawrence because it’s in Wisconsin but, instead, despite the fact that it’s in Wisconsin.

Imagine how much more appealing going to school in Wisconsin will be to students from warmer climes if we could market it like this: “Spend your winters at home in balmy Albuquerque and your summers in temperate Wisconsin. Apply to Lawrence this moment.” It’s important that we appeal to out-of-state students if we want to continue the trend of becoming a more diverse place.

The fourth and final reason we should have Sprinterall year—one word, three syllables: internships. If you’ve applied to an internship during your time at Lawrence, you’ve probably, like me, been frustrated by the fact that Lawrence’s school year ends several weeks after most internships begin in the middle of May.

This puts Lawrence students in an uncomfortable position; we either have to start the internship late or end our classes early. Straight up Scylla and Charybdis to us career-oriented Odysseus’s.

Internships are important. Forbes reported in 2013 that internships are the biggest factor companies look at when they’re hiring someone. Our school, with its wonky school year, puts us at a disadvantage in the job market, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in 20 years of reading Yahoo News and the Huffington Post, it’s that the job market comes before all else.

Sprinterall term is here to help. Many places with established, reputable internship programs offer internships throughout the year, including over the winter. There’s less competition for winter internships because they’re during the school year, so we’d be more likely to be accepted.

And it goes without saying that once we have a couple of good internships under our belts, we’re basically set to out-compete all of our fellow English-major Millennials for the two tenured professorships that open ever other year.

So in the next few weeks, while you dig out your parkas and balaclavas, remember that if this were a Sprinterall year, it would be done in two weeks.