Students Want a Thanksgiving Break

Let’s face it: students are assigned a lot of work over break. This time every fall, professors dole out papers, problem sets and readings, each professor expecting students to prioritize the coursework she assigns over the others.
In fact, many students have come to expect getting assigned extra work for the extra time they have off over break. A majority of these students say that it interferes with their family plans and holiday travels.
Thanksgiving is important, not just as a festival or a tradition, but as a time for us to distance ourselves from the hustle and bustle of campus life, and make time for ourselves. Often Amherst students don’t have time over the course of the semester to indulge themselves in all the activities they are interested in.
We find ourselves giving up many enriching experiences because we are forced to prioritize work over these things. But worse is the fact that we have to prioritize at all.
We need at least one opportunity in the semester to be free to engage in meaningful experiences without the burden of having to compromise. In other words, a break isn’t really a break if we just do the same things, but on our “own” time. Breaks present us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in relaxation and personal development. When was the last time you read a book for fun? When was the last time you spontaneously took a night off just for yourself?
It might seem like a trivial point to quibble on, but it speaks to a larger culture at this College that values academics and resumé-padding activities more than it does those that promote self-development and discovery. It’s a culture that makes us too focused and too driven — and does not let us pursue the things we want to be driven by.
When students leave campus, they leave behind both a learning environment and a productive work environment. They are tossed to the perils of modern travel, packing and unpacking, catching buses followed by flights followed by trains, across the country and international borders. Then they are stuck out at home, swarmed by family and friends in the holiday season, struggling to find the time and space and wherewithal to push away their families and focus.
It’s not always easy. Home becomes a basement desk sprawled with textbooks, a bedroom littered with handouts. It becomes a chaotic clash of the world of learning and work with the world of the personal and family.
Amherst and its academics are not at fault, though; two factors combine to make our misery worse. We work and work because we value the age-old values of productivity, sacrifice, and self-improvement — Americans lead the industrialized world in work hours per week. Yet we also work and work because technology and work-culture has expanded the workplace into the home space. With smartphones, VPNs, cloud computing and Amherst e-Reserves, work and school will always beckon — as our professors are all too aware.
Isn’t it time to make a real break of Thanksgiving?

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