In a few weeks, Binghamton University students are scheduled to head home the day before Thanksgiving. Next semester, students are set to return to classes the day after Easter. But for some, the University’s break schedule will force them to make a choice between academics and family.
The University’s academic calendar is coming under fire from students after administrators did not schedule travel days for students heading home during the Thanksgiving and Easter breaks. BU’s spring break is scheduled from April 4 to April 12 this year, with Easter Sunday as the final day of vacation. The schedule could force students celebrating the holiday to travel to back to Broome County instead of eating Easter dinner to make it back to BU in time for Monday classes.
Students preparing to go home the day before Thanksgiving on Nov. 27 face a similar predicament. Classes are set to recess at 1 p.m., leaving many with little time to travel.
The calendar is not new — BU has recessed classes the day before Thanksgiving and required students to return to Binghamton on Easter Sunday in the past. But this year, the schedule raised frustrations, with a petition on Change.org attempting to convince University administrators to adjust the break schedule garnering more than 500 student signatures.
The break schedule is also drawing attention from the Student Association (SA). At a SA Congress meeting on Tuesday, representatives passed a resolution calling on the University to amend the 2019-20 academic calendar to dismiss all classes at 11 a.m. on Nov. 27 and close residential halls at 1 p.m., buying students a few extra hours of travel time. Additionally, the resolution advocates for spring break to be extended until April 13. Proponents of the effort said students deserve the opportunity to celebrate holidays with their families, without having to drive late into the night to avoid missing classes.
“My concerns lie with the fact that students will be faced with the choice of heading home [or] staying home, depending on the break, to celebrate the holidays with their family or attending their classes,” wrote Hunter Andrasko, SA Congress speaker and a senior double-majoring in human development and political science, in an email. “Students should not have to make that choice.”
Clarissa Agate, a sophomore majoring in art history, said coming back for classes on Easter Sunday or the day after will be a struggle, considering how far away from the University she lives.
“As someone who comes from a religious family, celebrating Easter is a big deal in my household,” Agate said. “Being expected to leave my home to come back up to Binghamton the day before Easter or on actual Easter, just to make it to class on Monday, is ridiculous. It also does not help that I live about four hours away and most students in my situation live even further, so leaving on Monday to make it to class on time is not an option.”
For some students, the academic calendar is even more restrictive. Many resident assistants are expected to stay behind to close residential halls and show up early to reopen them. On Easter Sunday, residential halls open at 2 p.m., and opening staff members are required to be on campus several hours prior.
“The timing of these breaks has the potential to prevent students from enjoying the holidays with their families, especially concerning Easter,” said a residential assistant in Dickinson Community, who asked to remain anonymous. “Even those residential assistants and students who do not have to be back to open the building for Easter may be forced to leave their celebrations early to be back in time for Monday classes.”
But Donald Nieman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said ResLife employees know they will sacrifice time immediately before and after breaks when taking their position.
“ResLife concerns are just one element of the many concerns that have to be accommodated,” Nieman said. “There are student roles on campus that carry with them obligations that include time on break periods. This includes not only residential assistants but intercollegiate athletes, tour guides and others. That is part of assuming such a role.”
Nieman also noted that BU’s calendar committee has already amended the 2020-21 calendar to make the Monday after Easter a holiday.
“To the extent we can avoid the need to include an obligation over break and manage all of the other considerations that influence the academic calendar — we will do so,” he said.
Passing the resolution will not immediately affect the academic calendar, as only administrators have the power to make changes to the University schedule. Still, Andrasko hopes the resolution will draw attention to the issue and inform BU officials of student concerns.
“As speaker of Congress for the SA, there really isn’t anything I or the SA can do besides continue to advocate for our students,” Andrasko wrote. “We have brought this issue to administrators and at the end of the day, they are the ones responsible for deciding on these policies.”
He and other members of SA Congress plan to meet with administrators to continue to encourage them to make changes to the current year’s academic calendar. Agate said she hopes they are successful.
“I find it very unfair, and frankly disrespectful that students are expected to attend classes the day after Easter,” Agate said. “The University should take into consideration the fact that most students want to go home to celebrate Easter with their families and by making us have class the next day, they are robbing us of that opportunity.”