Give us a break
The University should either extend fall reading days or eliminate them and extend Thanksgiving Break
Students concerned about weekend stresses can take comfort in the fact that reading days begin this Saturday. That’s right — instead of the typical Saturday, sleeping in and without classes, we will get to enjoy a Saturday of sleeping in and without classes, courtesy of a reading day. For those who don’t know, reading days are a scheduled University holiday designed to be used by students for studying. They are also one of the least beneficial University concepts for a host of logistical reasons.
This year, reading days begin Saturday, Oct. 6 and continue through next Tuesday. The idea is that students can use this time to study for midterms — a goal that gets lost as professors tend to give exams before the days as often as they do after. Instructors, though, take the heading of a “holiday” as justification for assigning a heavier amount of coursework.
The University may call this a four-day break, but for all practical purposes it should only count for two days. As mentioned, there is no difference between the student routine on a regular weekend and what should be expected this weekend.
What does change during this mini-leave is that University facilities close. Reading days can be used as a getaway for students living nearby; but there will be many remaining in Charlottesville. Several smaller dining locations will not be serving any food. Also closing earlier are libraries — Alderman and Clemons both close at 6 p.m. on Saturday as opposed to the usual eight and midnight, respectively — so students wanting to study will have to look elsewhere. This sort of counter-intuition belies the whole notion of a “reading day,” and if the University believes this should be an academic respite it should furnish more library hours.
Students also complain that this idiosyncratic holiday does not line up with peer schools. We have reading days, for instance, but a truncated Thanksgiving Break. Aligning the University calendar to a more standardized schedule would allow students to make plans in accordance with family and friends; or, at least have a break of longer duration to actually get something done.
The University’s model is not the sole template. Virginia Tech has a single reading day before finals, with three days off for fall break. Although its fall break does count the weekend, this shortened version allows students a full week off for Thanksgiving.
Reading days provide students more academic work without equivalent time. It is an awkward little breather hardly better than nothing. The University should provide students a longer fall break, or scrap the gig altogether and give us more time at Thanksgiving.