Perez: Much Ado About Nothing

by Sarah Perez | 5/20/15 6:06pm

To the dismay of many, classes will be held on two Saturdays of the upcoming fall term. This change comes as the starting date of the term has been moved forward to Sept. 16 from Sept. 14 to accommodate the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This information provoked outcry in social media circles — many a Yak decried the loss of two “chill” Saturdays, comparing the College to an overgrown boarding school with nanny administrators.

Though the response was not overwhelmingly negative — other students, including members of the Jewish community, welcomed the schedule change — it’s not hard to understand why Saturday classes might cause an immediate backlash. Anyone who has been through a 10-week term knows that Saturdays offer valuable spurts of reprieve after a whirlwind week. They are a time for Lou’s brunches, hikes and catching up on much-needed sleep. And while I love my Saturdays as much as — if not more than — the next student, the College was correct in its decision. Saturday classes may not be ideal, but the schedule change is in the best interests of the whole community.

First and foremost, Jewish students will be spared of the need to juggle religious and academic commitments. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which both fall in September, are considered the two most significant holidays in the Jewish calendar, and many students partake by attending services or fasting. As we know too well, the beginning of the term is already an extremely busy time. There are meetings, move-ins, practices and the onslaught of new course work. By adjusting the academic calendar to accommodate Rosh Hashanah, Jewish students will have the option of celebrating at home with their families and returning to Hanover before their classes begin. Without the schedule change, students who observe the holiday would likely start the term at a disadvantage, forced to balance the stresses of the first two days of the term with religious obligations. The College has not overstepped its bounds — rather, it is acting in a way that is sensitive to the needs of its students.

While this perspective focuses on the initial rationale for delaying the term start date, it is also important to remember that Saturday classes are the best way to accommodate this change, which, despite the backlash, benefits all students. Though a few Friday night revelries may be cut short, students will be receiving the total instruction time they paid for. Whether you think about it or not, each class period is an investment. Many students, myself included, often forget the price tag attached to each 9L, 10A or 12. With tuition showing no signs of decline, it is more important than ever for students to maximize their time at the College and take full advantage of the resources it offers. If this means attending class for a couple hours on a Saturday, then so be it. Many families are making immense sacrifices to send their children to a top institution of higher education. The scheduled Saturday classes ensure that students are getting their money’s worth and that hard-earned tuition dollars are not wasted.

In the grand scheme of things, making such a fuss over two weekend class days is much ado about nothing. There are 52 Saturdays in 2015. For this fall term, class is scheduled on Sept. 26 and Oct. 24 — which amounts to just 3.8 percent of all Saturdays. While the D-Plan may cause some individual variation, students will, on average, spend roughly 100 Saturdays on campus during their careers at the College. This is not by any means an argument in favor of Saturday classes. I agree that weekend classes should be avoided as much as possible, only to be used as a last resort measure. In these circumstances, however, it seems that the two Saturday class periods represent the most satisfactory solution to a scheduling dilemma. The College’s decision to alter the schedule is the best way to provide all students, their families and faculty with a smooth start to fall term without reducing its value. While criticism of the schedule change is likely to continue, students should put their grievances in perspective. After all, we still have 96.2 percent of Saturdays left free to rage.