Organizations must provide programming during fall break
Fall break, for some students, is an opportunity to go home for a few days to unwind from the stress of midterms. For them, the recess can be fulfilling, as intended: no classes, no work, just necessary relaxation, over a well-earned break.
Many others, however, don’t have the means to leave campus over fall break; even with the shift in 2016 from a three-day weekend to a four-day one in 2016, traveling may not be worth the associated expense for such a short period. For these students, fall break can be wholly unsatisfying: a brief respite from academics, yes, but not much else.
That’s because Washington University, as it stands, provides few alternatives to being cooped up in a dorm room watching Netflix: Dining hours are shortened and campus all but shuts down.
Instead, Wash. U. should help students take advantage of the extra time off by offering a variety of programming throughout the long weekend.
For freshmen in particular, fall break may be the first instance when homesickness really starts to set in: It’s their first extended period on campus without a pre-orientation program, Bear Beginnings or classes to keep them busy, and many of their friends are able to visit their families, while they’re still stuck on campus. The First Year Center could organize freshman-focused activities, like flag football on the Swamp or a movie screening in College Hall.
In general, there are plenty of ways for the University to provide options, both on campus and off campus. On campus, Wash. U. could schedule a series of events, similar to a miniature WILD week or reading week: ice cream in the Danforth University Center or themed exercise classes in the Sumers Recreation Center, for example.
The Career Center currently offers various road show opportunities during fall break, but those are associated with fees that aren’t feasible for some students. Break is a timely opportunity for students who have been focused on homework and exams to prepare for job and internship hunts. The Career Center could offer workshops centered on campus during fall break—as it does throughout the year—on topics from resumes to interviews to networking.
But fall break is also a great chance to get out of the Wash. U. bubble and explore St. Louis and the surrounding area. That could mean funding tickets to a St. Louis Blues game or Six Flags, taking groups to Eckert’s Family Farms or the Missouri Botanical Garden or simply subsidizing Enterprise CarShare for students to venture further than the city to, say, hike at Castlewood or Elephant Rocks State Parks.
While there are costs associated with each proposal, it’s important to note that most of these are things Wash. U. already offers throughout the year. For a few days and a limited number of students, the University can surely provide these options in some capacity.
At the very least, Wash. U., the First Year Center and/or Student Union can act as compilers, sending out emails with a schedule of events around campus and offering alternative ideas of activities within the radius of every students’ U-Pass. The Wash. U. events calendar currently promotes events like “Transforming Healthcare in Missouri: Ideas for Innovation and Investment” and “Gravitational-wave detection beyond the standard quantum limit through EPR entanglement.” Interesting? Yes. Fun? Not so much, especially when every social media post is about the joys of being home. Similarly, the First Year Center website lists two events: Parent’s Weekend Registration and Parents Weekend itself, and the most recent “SUp This Week” email from SU only lists events taking place later in October. The bases for cultivating events already exist; they just need to be updated.
Fall Break provides a vital mid-semester breather for students, but it can quickly turn into a wasted or, at the very least, boring four days for students still on campus. Wash. U. has the ability to change that going forward and, if it wishes to continue to better supporting its students, the editorial board believes that it should take advantage of the many resources in place to do so.