Does Thanksgiving Break need an overhaul?

Curtis Powers

Coming back from Thanksgiving Break is a little weird. Think about it. We have two weeks and finals; that’s it. Then we have another break for three weeks. In contrast, Spring Break will fall in the middle of the semester.

As I’ve mentioned before, it might make more sense to break up the days off. Sure, it’s easier to just do it all in one week. After all, that’s probably the way it’s always been done.

However, doing it the way we’re doing is kind of like the way Iowa State’s football schedule is: No bye weeks, and that takes a toll over the course of a season. Sure, you can grind it out, but your performance suffers.

Take me for example. My GPA during my four fall semesters averaged out at 2.91 with a range of 2.75 to 3.00. For the four spring semesters, my GPA averaged out at 3.28 with a range of 3.00 to 3.53.

As any person who’s taken a stat class knows, correlation doesn’t imply causation. There are other variables at work beyond when breaks occur.

I will freely admit that my first fall semester was in engineering before I transferred to accounting (2.83). My last fall semester was also the first semester in which I was married and my last one as an undergraduate (2.75).

Even at that, there are still two semesters where I didn’t crack above a 3.00 — both were 3.00. And aside from my one 3.00 during the spring of 2008, my other three semesters were 3.27, 3.33 and 3.53.

And as a graduate student in political science in spring 2010, I notched a 4.00. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Elementary school? It wasn’t easy either. I had to write a 20-page research paper basically figuring things out as I went since I hadn’t written a paper more than five pages before in my life.

Furthermore, I decided to take an internship during the fall semester as an undergraduate because I didn’t like that semester very much. I still had a fourth fall semester, but it did make one of them less relevant because I was accepted to graduate school before graduation.

But so far, I’ve just looked at my experience and I’m certainly not a representative sample of the university population. So I would need more data and analysis to make more substantive claims.

However, I just can’t shake the feeling that something could be there; this article wasn’t even going to be about this topic.

I was walking the fifth floor hallway of Ross Hall at around midnight trying to come up with a topic. I decided to write about the need to plan out your semester and not overburden yourself with too many things. That way you can actually enjoy college.

But as I started to write, this came out. It’s weird. I’m not one to crusade for things, generally speaking — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The more I thought about it, though, it seemed that there may be a better way. Maybe it’s due to the policy and program evaluation course I’m taking. It’s taught me to think about what a program’s actually trying to do and why as a result of policy. Once you can figure that out, you can find ways to improve the program and make it work better.

That got me thinking. How could Iowa State improve the break in fall semester? Initially I just wished that our Thanksgiving was actually the fourth Thursday in October, but obviously that’s not reality.

I also think every college in the United States takes a break in some fashion for Thanksgiving. However, some of them don’t break on the Monday and Tuesday of that week.

So you could take a Monday and Tuesday off earlier in the semester. That would help break things up a bit without sacrificing time in the classroom.

The dates I liked the most were the second Monday and Tuesday of October. The second Monday in October is actually when Canada’s Thanksgiving is so it’d kinda be like having two Thanksgivings.

It’s also Columbus Day, which is probably problematic for some folks, but I couldn’t find a better solution. I tried to find important dates to celebrate famous ISU people like Carrie Catt and George W. Carver, but I came up empty.

More importantly, those dates would fall in the eighth week of the semester, which is about when we break in the spring. In my mind, this is pivotal because the goal is to put a break closer to the middle of the semester.

While this plan isn’t perfect, I think it would be doable especially considering almost 90 percent of American ISU undergraduates live in Iowa or states that border Iowa. So, in all likelihood, a change in policy probably wouldn’t affect too many students’ ability to go home during Thanksgiving Break.

But this whole point is moot unless some of you think this policy needs improvement. So what do you think? Do you think this matters? Does the break policy for fall semester need to be changed?

E-mail me and let me know. Vote in our poll at the Iowa State Daily website. If you do think it’s important, e-mail your representative for Government of the Student Body. Contrary to popular belief, the GSB does stuff, and something like this might be right up their alley.

Make your voice heard.