Reading Period Is Too Long

Today begins another reading period. It's hard to remember that it's actually not a vacation. Instead, it's a period for us to catch-up. Thirteen wonderful days of catch-up.

Do I sound unenthused? Probably because I am. Reading period stretches out before me like a barren field on a bleak winter's day. This would be fine were it really winter, of course. Then the weather would match our mood. However, reading period during spring semester seems especially hard to bear. Birds sing, flowers bloom. And we study.

I suppose our studying habits shouldn't vacillate with the seasons. Reality is, however, far from ideal. This is the one way to make us enthusiastic about the start of finals. If we ruminate long enough about impending doom, sooner or later we'll begin to wish for it to be over.

Quite simply, reading period is too long. Because of its length, reading period does not function as it is supposed to: an independant study time for finals. Instead, we're working on papers or actually attending class through the first week of reading period. Many people treat reading period as if only the last week counted--we may as well make it one week long. Since we just ended classes, it's not like fall semester where we need a reintegration time after winter break. No, now the first week is just extra time for angst.

If reading period were to function completely as an independant study time, then perhaps it would be more effective. But reading period is different for each class. Some meet through the first week, as if reading period was only one week. Some assign long papers since no one has any classes during that time, and should have ample time to write a paper. The problem comes when a student is in two of each kind of class.


I know that I have aroused angry protests in most students. Granted, reading period, once we are facing it, does not seem long enough for all the work we have to accomplish. But most of that work is not studying for finals, but catch-up work for classes, in which we seem to be permanently behind. If reading period was only one week, it would be treated more seriously by all. We wouldn't have classes or papers during this time because it would be short and have a definitive purpose.

There is actually quite a lot to catch up on during reading period. However, my hope would be that we would always be assigned reasonable workloads during the semester so that it wouldn't accumulate so much at the end of the term. Without the cushion of a reading period, classes would be inclined to assign less readings during the term. It would not be realistic to do so much work.

Perhaps most difficult of all is to lapse into self-motivated study after working under time pressure the entire year. Once you begin to function working only on what is due the next day and struggling to finish that, it is difficult to motivate yourself towards long-term goals. Any respite, even of a day, is welcome. That first week of reading period is just too far off from finals period to be of use.

But what should we do now that we have so much work and the deadlines are two weeks away? The only hope is to shut ourselves in the basement of a library, pretend that winter is outside and that all our friends at all those other schools are still in class.

This is Tanya Dutta's last column of the semester.

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