Change can be a good – or bad – thing. This academic year started off on a new day. Literally. Residents moved in on a weekday and classes started the following Monday. For perhaps the first time in the history of Emporia State the entire campus was involved in the move-in experience. Staff and faculty graciously gave their parking spaces up to families hauling make-shift rooms to campus, and people from all areas of our campus turned out to help. Those in attendance overheard families exclaim in awe of the outpouring of generosity and excitement generated by our fearless volunteers. It was a chance for our community to come together and support each other in a brand new way. The excitement generated was the perfect way to start off the new year.
But Monday came too soon. Classes started immediately – with no room to relax. Not only did classes start at the beginning of the week, but first-day classes sped through the syllabus and rolled right into the subject matter. At the same time that we were rushing to classes, we were attempting to get our internet connections stabilized, waiting in long lines to buy our books and scrounging to figure out which activities we should join – all without the weekend to do it. For some it may have felt like the start of a race or trying to run through water. It was stressful and exhausting to an the point that even faculty and staff felt it.
In previous years students moved i
n on Saturday, with Sunday plus the first two days of the week to get oriented with classes, buy books, find classrooms and to get back into the basic routine of campus life. Classes then started Wednesdays with most teachers taking their time to go through the syllabus and set down the rules of engagement. By comparison, the start-of-school process of the past has been downright easy and relaxing, a walk in the park.
According to the academic calendars on the ESU website there have been more changes to makes this school year drastically different from previous years. For instance, this semester Dead Week falls right after Thanksgiving, with no room to breathe in between. Winter break is an extensive five and a half weeks long, but next semester we have neither Martin Luther King Jr. Day nor President’s Day off, giving us only Winter Break and Spring Break off.
The impact of all of this is that, while we have more time off between semesters, we may have cut that time at the cost of student productivity and success. Students need consistency to balance their equilibrium between times of intense stress. The changes have heightened our stress at the worst points in the year. We need that additional time at the start of the semester to get organized and set the pace for our success. We need an occasional break in the routine to jump start us out of the doldrums that come with the monotonous stream of research, homework, papers and study that fills core of our semester. Most importantly, we need our administration to consider not just the allotment of time in a schedule, but the impact of those decisions on the student body.