BOGUE: Against the four-day week
In avoiding Friday classes, some students miss the point of college
When I first arrived at the University last year, a number of traditions were new to me, ranging from University-specific customs — such as streaking the Lawn — to more universal college maxims: thou shalt celebrate “Thirsty Thursday.” Most of them I enjoy, and those I don’t generally elicit some sort of detached bemusement from me. I may not agree with all the choices my peers make, but I can understand where they’re coming from. For one tradition in particular, however, I continually fail to see the benefit: avoiding Friday classes.
For some students, this action isn’t even one they can choose. The Commerce School generally doesn’t hold class on Friday; students who enter in their third year gleefully celebrate the commencement of the four-day school week (if they haven’t done so already). Indeed, I can anecdotally report hearing from a number of fellow classmates that the Commerce School is enticing in large part because of its schedule. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say these students choose to apply based solely on the allure of truly unrestrained Thursday nights, the significance of this scheduling ranks uncomfortably high on their list of priorities. For many other students, particularly outside the Commerce School, avoiding class on Fridays is a deliberate choice, one that entails meticulously crafting one’s schedule, refusing to take certain classes or doubling up on Mondays and Wednesdays in order to avoid ever having to set an alarm on Friday mornings. The three-day weekend, that particularly collegiate temptress, will not be denied.
Yet such an attitude is problematic. First and foremost, it illustrates a disdain for the very reason we are at college in the first place: to educate ourselves as much as possible, while the option to do so is still feasible. I am the first to admit that education can, and does, occur outside the lecture hall; I would challenge the notion, however, that most students who avoid Friday classes are doing so because they are seeking legitimate extra-curricular learning opportunities. Some students do work jobs while at the University, and use the extra time on Friday to work for a paycheck. This column is not addressed to such students. The majority of University students, though perhaps not all, do not intend to use their Fridays in this manner. Instead, they are looking for simply more free time, more time to sleep, another night to have fun, and a lengthened break from schoolwork — all legitimate pursuits, when not achieved at the cost of deliberately avoiding certain courses simply because of the meeting time.
We are here to seek and to thirst. Sleep and socializing are necessary and desirable aspects of our life at the University; however, their importance should not be codified so as to permanently exclude an entire cohort of courses, many of which are some of the best at the University. Indeed, one of my favorite courses I took last year was the American Political Tradition, PLAP 2250, with Prof. Evan Pivonka. In the course, we discussed seminal topics in the development of American political thought. I spoke to many students, particularly upper years, who had expressed initial reluctance to take a discussion-based course that met at 9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; by midway through the course, they were grateful that they had chosen to enroll in the the course rather than keep their Fridays open. And this is by no means an isolated occurrence — stories like this proliferate at the University.
Moreover, while I maintain that our primary purpose at the University should be to educate ourselves as human beings — as vague and idealistic as that sounds — I admit that some degree of career preparation is necessary. Going to class five days a week mirrors the working world, where the vast majority of jobs require five full work days (sometimes more). Students do themselves a disservice when they become accustomed to the unrealistic demands of a four-day course schedule, which is rarely, if ever, replicated outside the college environment. There is a reason why the weekend has traditionally consisted of no more than two days: a longer reprieve tends to breed unproductivity and stagnation of the new skills and habits learned during the week, mirroring in miniature the unfortunate effects of an overly extended summer vacation.
I would challenge University students to stretch their time here by using Friday as more than a day to recover from Thursday night’s antics. Besides the obvious benefit of making available the various classes that meet on Fridays — many of which are considered some of the best at the University — a five-day “study week” is reflects what will all-too-quickly become our new reality: five-day work weeks. If students find themselves free from Friday classes — thanks to the Commerce School, or some other reason — they should find some other way to make full and productive use of their Friday time: pursuing a hobby, taking up a job, or allotting a substantial amount of time for study, and then sticking to that schedule. In the end, you’ll get your fill of partying and sleeping off the hangover while at the University, as you should. Instead of adding one more night of revelry, though, choose to prioritize your intellectual exploration. That’s a path that leaves few regrets.
Russell Bogue is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. His columns run Thursdays.