Task force assesses survey on winter break

Fanny Lau

Tuesday, Jan. 10, the Winter Break Task Force analyzed the results of a survey distributed in the fall about the six-week winter break. This is the third year the academic calendar has included a break lasting from Thanksgiving to the beginning of January. The survey attempted to evaluate the effects of a longer winter break on students, faculty and staff.

“The Winter Break Task Force’s mandate is to decide if we should continue to start fall term early and end before Thanksgiving, or return to our earlier calendar by looking at everyone’s preferences,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty David Burrows.

The Winter Break Task Force includes Associate Professor of Biology Judith Humphries, Associate Professor of Music and Teacher of Trumpet John Daniel, Associate Professor of French Lifongo Vetinde and Associate Professor of Economics Adam Galambos.

Before the implementation of the six-week break, Fall Term started in late September and ended in late December, resulting in a shorter winter break. However, when the housing market triggered the economic recession, a committee formed to adjust the academic calendar so the university could save on energy costs during the month of December.

According to the survey, 82 percent of students, 78 percent of staff and 62 percent of faculty were in favor of having a longer winter break. However, Burrows took care to emphasize that “a fair number marked ‘No Preference’ or didn’t respond” in all three groups sampled. Only about a third of the student population responded to the survey, and of that group 20 percent marked ‘No Preference’.

Furthermore, he noted that the task force has yet to perform any analyses of the subgroups within the three categories of students, faculty and staff. Burrows revealed that the faculty results could be complicated by whether they teach in the college or the conservatory, whether they started work before or after the new calendar was implemented and whether they work full-time or part-time.

In reference to the extended length of the winter break, freshman Heather Carr believed that “it was a good chunk of time, but a lot of people, including me, don’t use it well.”

In contrast, Director of the Seeley G. Mudd Library and Associate Professor Peter Gilbert enjoyed the longer winter break, as it was “reminiscent of [his] undergraduate college years at Carleton College.” The new academic calendar at Lawrence University was actually based off the three-term systems at Carleton College and Knox College. Gilbert admitted he was “skeptical at first, but [he thinks] Lawrence made it work” because he “had time to clean [his] desk and inbox, among other things.”

Junior Patrick Pylvainen also found the academic calendar conducive to productivity. Pylvainen was able to obtain seasonal employment as a retail associate, a job he said he was able to secure because of the longer break.

Though there are benefits to keeping the current academic calendar, Burrows also communicated some concerns voiced in the survey about the longer winter break, including a shorter summer and compressed academic terms. A final report on the Winter Break Task Force’s findings will be released after January.

Burrows stressed, “What we will be offering is only an analysis, not a recommendation.”