CLAS dean encourages fall ‘breather’

GVL/Nickolas Peters

GVL/Nickolas Peters

Hannah Lentz

Frederick Antczak, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, has asked CLAS faculty and anyone else who would choose to join, to not give any readings, assignments or homework for the weekend of Oct. 18 and 19. Faculty are not being asked to schedule any less work, just to schedule around that weekend.

“Our university is committed to retaining our freshmen, and more generally serving first generation students. But we begin the year with a fall semester featuring an 11 and a half week gauntlet, unrelieved by any official break,” Antczak said. “Many students come to us never having gone to a school system that met for even seven consecutive complete weeks.”

Antczak said he knows how draining the fall semester is, particularly without any break for so many weeks. According to Antczak, students are less able to study and concentrate as the semester wears on.

“Even faculty get exhausted, and they start getting sick in noticeably larger numbers in November,” Antczak said. “If a spring break of nine days makes sense for these constituents, why wouldn’t a formal fall break of just a Monday and Tuesday, a four day weekend, make at least as much sense? It takes the whole university to change the schedule – the support of student government last year was a good start.”

While he will not be checking up with staff to enforce participation, it is recommended that staff acknowledge this “breather.” Some courses do not lend themselves to this breather and other faculty will choose not to participate, as it is completely voluntary. Antczak’s hope is that there will be enough faculty participating so a significant number of students get what he feels is a necessary break.

“As an individual, I felt I could invite faculty to schedule the necessary work in their courses so that one weekend would be without homework,” Antczak said. “It’s entirely voluntary, I suspect it’s mostly going to happen in CLAS, but if enough faculty choose to do it, we might get to see a little of the positive impact.”

Antczak encourages students to ask their professors if they’ve scheduled a fall breather into their courses.

Optimally, he wishes that class attendance will go up due to this break. It has been recorded that during this time, more students get sick and thus skip classes.

However, illness is not the only reason Antczak is pushing for a break in the schedule.

“If you’re behind in a course, you can catch up, and perhaps there might even be some small step forward in courses successfully completed and time to graduation,” Antczak said. “There are lots of good reasons to try scheduling a fall break, if we only have the will.”

One of the supporters of this idea is staff member Paul Stephenson of the statistics department. Stephenson will be enacting a fall breather for his students this year.

“It appears to me that the 11 weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving breaks present the students with a constant stream of assignments, essays, exams and semester projects,” Stephenson said. “It is easy to see how this unrelenting schedule drains our students both mentally and physically. If the faculty community were to identify a weekend for a fall respite, it could provide the students with an opportunity for rejuvenation. In theory, this fall breather would decrease student stress and be one strategy for curbing student burn-out.”

Currently, many surrounding universities have a fall break for students including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Central Michigan University. The topic of initiating a fall break at GVSU has been talked about in Student Senate and various university boards for several years now with exponentially increased student backing.

While the CLAS fall breather is entirely voluntary for professors to participate in, Antczak hopes that if enough people are interested in the unofficial break, the university will see the desire for an official break in future years.