Profs hold Friday class; students upset

by Mary Katherine Flanigan | 10/21/05 5:00am

As the biggest weekend of the term arrives, students hope that Thursday night's Homecoming festivities are followed by a Friday without classes. For the majority of students this hope goes unfulfilled as most professors choose to go against the tradition of canceling classes as a prelude to a weekend filled with a bonfire, football and parties.

This year in particular, canceling classes the Friday before Homecoming has become a point of contention between students and faculty members. An official policy of class cancellation has not been in place for many years and with each passing year its tradition has been less followed.

As recently as 1986, classes were canceled campus-wide as a holiday formally built into the school calendar. After the school-sanctioned day was discontinued, new professors were still pressured to cancel classes due to the prediction of low attendance.

"When I first came here and started teaching it was a sort of trend. I was advised that it would be political and practical to cancel classes since students wouldn't come," classics Professor Phyllis Katz said.

Since the canceling of classes has now become a little-publicized tradition and is no longer an official policy, every professor is left to make his or her own decision.

"Some of the old guard definitely will cancel classes and some of the newer professors as well because students sometimes convince them that that's the expectation," Associate Dean of Freshmen John Pfister said.

While numerous freshmen were oblivious to the possibility of not attending class, many professors were not even aware that this tradition existed.

"I wasn't aware that people cancel classes routinely, it's a new one on me. I've been here 17 years," English professor Tom Luxon said.

Some professors refuse to cancel classes, citing the impossibility of fitting all the material they would like to cover into a ten-week term. Others provide incentives for students to attend class, such as one professor who shares an exact word-for-word test question that will appear on a future exam.

The biggest motivator provided for attending class on Friday is a midterm scheduled for that day.

"My students asked if I would cancel class. I have no plans to do so. One of the classes I'm teaching, Government 6, has an exam in the 2 slot," government Professor Lucas Swain said.

Many students, especially freshman, are using Friday night's bonfire to justify a need for cancelled classes.

"Some freshmen are supposed to build the bonfire when they have class," Neil Kandler '09 said. "I think it would be nice if they moved class so freshmen could participate in the building of the bonfire."

Pfister stressed the flexibility of the bonfire construction time slots.

"Those times to build the bonfire are not written in stone. People are encouraged to go out and build the bonfire at any time," Pfister said.

While the tradition of the cancellation of Friday classes is gradually burning out, some students will still be able to enjoy an extended Homecoming weekend.

"There's no Psychology I the Monday after Homecoming because they tried it last year and no one came," Kersti Spjut '09 said.

Even for those with class on Friday, students find little to complain about regarding the weekend overall.

"Despite the fact I have class on Friday, it's my first Homecoming and I'm really looking forward to seeing and experiencing all the traditions and showing my Dartmouth school spirit," Amber Gode '09 said.

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