College Admin Sought Week-Long Thanksgiving Break

Though this year’s Thanksgiving break—extended to include Wednesday—is the longest in recent memory, College administrators say that last fall they unsuccessfully attempted to lengthen the break to a full week.

A year ago, the Office of Undergraduate Education submitted a proposal to then-Provost Steven E. Hyman seeking to extend the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ traditional two-day Thanksgiving break to include Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

The proposal was made “in response to student requests and the sense on the part of the College and FAS administrations that a fall break would serve students and faculty well,” Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds said.

But Hyman denied the College’s request, agreeing only to cancel classes on Wednesday because “the late fall schedule was already too compressed ... to make up for three additional missed days,” University spokesman John D. Longbrake said in an emailed statement.

According to Hammonds, the request was also denied on the grounds that the University-wide common calendar, which was implemented in fall 2009, would be “undermined by allowing the FAS to have such a break when it was clear that the other Schools would not do likewise.”

Harvard students have long looked at Yale’s calendar as a model for a week-long Thanksgiving break, but this year Harvard students will once again return from the Harvard-Yale football game to classes while their Yale counterparts will head home for the holiday.

“We go to Harvard-Yale, we party—it’s hard to get your mind back on school for just two days,” John Henry F. Hinkel ’12 said.

While Hinkel plans to fly home to Atlanta, Ga. on Tuesday night, he said that many of his friends plan to skip class.

College administrators said they have no plans to renew the request to extend the break.

Although Wednesday will now serve as an additional travel day, many students say they still intend to skip class next Monday and Tuesday to get an early start on the holiday.

James S. Klein ’13, who will be skipping one class to fly home to Los Angeles on Tuesday morning, said he “definitely” wishes the Provost had approved the College’s proposal.

“I don’t think a lot of kids go to their classes on Monday and Tuesday,” Klein added.

Physics professor Irwin I. Shapiro—who said he already thinks the three week period separating Thanksgiving break and Christmas vacation is “a bit slim”—said he would be in favor of a week-long Thanksgiving break only if the class days were made up at the end of the fall semester.

But Annemarie E. Ryu ’13, who is planning to fly back home to Minnesota after she attends all her classes on Tuesday, said she would be wary of the consequences of an extended Thanksgiving break on a time-crunched semester.

“The fall semester is already really compressed,” she said. “If you have a whole week off, deadlines could get moved back and limit time even more.”

Psychology professor Steven Pinker echoed Ryu’s sentiment, saying he thinks an extended Thanksgiving break would be “disruptive” even if the lost class days in November were made up at the end of the summer.

“I’d hate to see the semester extended still earlier into the summer to compensate for the missing class,” Pinker wrote in an emailed statement. “It’s bad enough that Harvard changed its calendar to rob us of those wonderful weeks of New England summer in exchange for those awful weeks of December winter!”

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@college.harvard.edu.

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