According to the academic calendar for the fall 2019 semester, classes will recess at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27 — the day before Thanksgiving. For many of us, especially those of us who will be traveling, this is problematic and entirely impractical.
Personally, I am lucky that both of my professors for my Wednesday morning courses were kind enough to cancel class that day knowing most of us will be skipping class to go home. However, not everyone is this lucky. Scheduling classes the day before Thanksgiving can lead to added stress on students whose travel plans complicate getting home in time for the holiday, and can even affect grades because of professors’ attendance policies.
The American Automobile Association defines Thanksgiving travel as the period between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the following Sunday, where travelers can expect higher levels of traffic in the early evening throughout the week. These dates correspond with when many of us will be driving through congested roadways, like those of New York City, to get home. It was estimated that 48.5 million people traveled by car for Thanksgiving in 2018, and Binghamton University students are among them. Because of this, estimates show it could take up to three times the optimal travel time for those traversing congested cities to reach their destination during the Thanksgiving period.
Thanksgiving is a prime time for travel, as families come together from all over the country. Unfortunately, BU’s schedule of classes does not help those looking to go home. Students will be forced to travel during peak travel times, only making it harder and more stressful to get home. Some may be forced to travel on Thanksgiving Day or during rush hour the day before, which is not only inconvenient but potentially dangerous because of the high volume of drivers on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is an increase in accidents and fatalities during Thanksgiving travel, with 528 people dying in accidents over the holiday weekend in 2017. This year, the University has significantly limited the travel window for students to get home, forcing them to travel at a potentially dangerous time when the volume of traffic is higher.
Not only does the academic calendar negatively impact travel plans, but it also can affect students’ grades due to several classes maintaining an attendance policy. Officially, classes are in session until 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27. If a student fails to attend a class that has not been canceled, they could be penalized for missing the class. Some students may have no choice but to miss class because of bus schedules or other means of getting home and will have to take absences that may hurt their grades in multiple courses.
While some professors have canceled their morning classes because it is impractical to have class when many students will not be able to attend, others have not. Attendance policies are included in each professor’s syllabus, mentioning things such as how attendance factors into the overall grade, penalties for absences and the number of classes a student is allowed to miss before points are deducted, but they sometimes follow the academic calendar when they shouldn’t. Students should not have to use one of their guaranteed absences for taking off the day before Thanksgiving — it is impractical for the University to expect that all its students, living as far away as some of them do, will be able to attend these classes.
As this week nears its end, a considerable amount of students will find themselves weighing whether they should miss class on Wednesday to get home at a reasonable time. This should not be something that students need to worry about; they should just focus on getting home safely. Whether they are driving, taking a bus or flying home, getting back in a safe and timely manner should not be jeopardized by the academic calendar’s unfortunate schedule.
Sophia LoBiondo is a sophomore majoring in political science.