Playing Hooky: Campus Empties

Students take extra ‘travel day’

William L. Jusino

Entering the Harvard Square T station, GEORGIOS THEOPHANOUS ’06 embarks on his journey away from Cambridge for the holiday weekend yesterday.

“No school Monday! No school Monday!” Yalies shouted as Harvard pounded the Elis on the gridiron en route to a third straight victory in The Game on Saturday.

The Yale faithful may have been on the defensive, but they did have a point.

While they sit at home lamenting the loss, their Cantabrigian counterparts are still in class—at least in theory. But Harvard students hoping to squeeze a few more days out of the break leave Wednesday classrooms half-empty, dining halls largely deserted, and the Yard’s morning rush thinned to a trickle of lonely-looking pedestrians.

“I have got a boy to see in New York City, and I need to get out of here asap.... I’m missing B-29, but I’ll be making it up in style in New York City,” said Jennie K. Hann ’05, who planned on skipping Science B-29, “Evolution of Human Nature”—commonly known as “Sex.”

Few schools have Thanksgiving week off as Yale does, but holding class on Wednesday, as Harvard does, is not exactly commonplace. Boston College, Boston University and Tufts are among those that are closed the day before Thanksgiving, although most of the other Ivies have class today.

Harvard continues to hold school the day before Thanksgiving largely out of respect for tradition, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William C. Kirby said.


But many students said that this tradition not only throws a wrench in their travel plans but also makes little sense given that some professors and teaching fellows cancel Wednesday meetings—and that those who do not often end up going through old material.

“[Harvard] should probably give Wednesday off,” Allie C. Moravec ’03-’04 said. “Most people leave early.... I don’t think I’ve ever been here on Wednesday.”

Moravec left Cambridge yesterday afternoon, and will miss today’s 11 a.m. lecture in Science A-43, “Environmental Risks and Disasters.” She said the course’s instructor, Professor of Geology and Geophysics Göran Ekström, even joked about lecturing to only two or three people today.

Kirby, however, said he expects students to attend the guest lecture that he will deliver today in Historical Study A-13, “China: Traditions and Transformations.”

“I have spent a lot of time writing a lecture for the students of this class, and I think it’s a pretty good lecture. I really do hope that they’ll be there,” he said. “And it would be a real shame for them to miss the pop quiz at the end of the lecture.”

Kirby’s views notwithstanding, many professors and teaching fellows said they are aware that today’s turnout is likely to be low.

“I don’t expect a lot of people to show up given historic trends,” Cabot Professor of Chemistry Roy G. Gordon ’61 said.

Gordon, however, said he did not cancel Chemistry 15, “Inorganic Chemistry” because there was too much material that needed to be covered. He noted that the lecture is also available on the course website.

Matthew P. Leingang, the course head of Math 1b, “Calculus, Series and Differential Equations,” also said he did not cancel sections today, but added that he planned to use the day to go over Monday’s midterm.

“I realized long ago that Thanksgiving was coming, so I built it in the syllabus. I’m prepared for it,” he said, pledging not to teach new material.

But, in Harvard’s largest class, MR 22, “Justice,” new material will be taught.

“By holding class on Wednesday, we think we’re maximizing the utility of our students,” course head Dan Loss said in an e-mail. “The higher pleasure of lecture clearly outweighs the lower pleasure of eating turkey.”

Many students suggested that the University should follow Yale and give students the whole week off.

“We should add three days onto the beginning of the year, and we should have the week,” said Allie C. Fitz ’05, who also left yesterday. “How much harder would it be?”