Staff Editorial: New schedule causes stress

The new academic calendar for Eastern Kentucky University that places finals the week after Thanksgiving causes unnecessary stress for students. This schedule takes away many opportunities for students to celebrate the holidays together before most leave campus for Winter Break. For students who have longer distances to travel, it is surely frustrating to travel back from Thanksgiving celebrations for a few days of finals.

This change began last year in the Fall 2020 semester, when finals were held the first week of December, but the university was all online for the last two weeks of the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so students were likely already home. In 2019, finals were held in the second week of December, so students were able to travel back if they left for the Thanksgiving Break, and then study and prepare for a week prior to finals week. The new schedule is set for the 2021-25 academic years. 

The most harmful part of the new schedule is how it gives students less time to prepare for finals and final projects. Dead week is effectively eliminated in this scheme, as the week that would normally be dead week is now Thanksgiving Break. Many professors, not wanting to force students to return for finals, have pushed final project due dates to before Thanksgiving, and some are conducting finals online. While this may alleviate travel concerns for some students, most students likely have something on campus that will force them to return after Thanksgiving anyway.  

Elimination of dead week also creates a heavier mental load over Thanksgiving Break, as students will likely use this time to study for finals and finish projects. With some final projects pushed earlier, the week before Thanksgiving will become dead week for students; however, most classes are still meeting, which certainly takes away from study time.  

Another downside of the new schedule is that it limits the amount of time organizations can hold holiday events on campus. Since most people do not attend many events during finals weeks, holiday celebrations and send offs will likely happen the weekend and week before Thanksgiving, which, while of course subjective, does seem like an odd time to start celebrating Christmas. This also likely means that students involved in multiple organizations have to choose between year-end events. One example of this is Deck the Halls, EKU Choirs’ year-end concert being held on Nov. 19. The concert has typically been held after Thanksgiving, and it is strange for a holiday concert to be before Thanksgiving. 

Of course, there is a reason behind the schedule change. It allows for the winter term to expand from a 4-week term to a 6-week term, which allows more students to take classes. However, it does not seem like making the winter term easier for some students is worth taking away important preparation and study time for all students. Of course, the term is the same length as usual, so students do have the same amount of preparation, in theory.

In practice, Thanksgiving break pushes what would be dead week to one week earlier, and with many professors making projects due before Thanksgiving, the schedule change effectively takes away a week and a half of the term. Even if projects are due during the official finals week, the whiplash from break to finals creates more stress for students who are already stressed from the lingering cloud of a pandemic and the rigors of their studies.

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