Columns, Opinions

Campbell ’18: Clouds of stress descend on Spring Weekend

By
Staff Columnist
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Apart from a flubbed announcement on the part of a certain Atlanta rapper, there isn’t a lot we know about this year’s Spring Weekend. There remains much to announce, with potential artists, rain calls and more up in the air. But we do know about one major detail — the date. For those who don’t already know, Spring Weekend is scheduled for Apr. 28 through Apr. 30,  otherwise known as the first three days of reading period. This odd and inexplicable decision by the Student Activities Office undermines the entire purpose of Spring Weekend.

Spring Weekend is ostensibly a chance for Brown students to blow off some steam by having fun in the (fingers crossed) sun with their peers before spring semester finals. On the face of it, the beginning of reading period seems like an ideal time for this: It might cut into studying a bit, but as long as students recover quickly, it shouldn’t affect them much. But in reality, this timing is far from perfect. SAO may have been motivated by the timing of Coachella; scheduling Spring Weekend for the week after might have made it easier to book artists, yet past lineups show how little of a problem this has been.

Next to the stress and commitments associated with finals, Coachella’s effect on Spring Weekend simply does not compare. Spring Weekend has now been placed smack in the middle of the virtual avalanche of assignments that is the final week of the semester and reading period. The percentage of classes with major assignments due during reading period is difficult to quantify, but I can attest that I have two finals in the week immediately preceding Spring Weekend and three in the week immediately following. That’s hardly a scenario that would allow for three days of carefree revelry. I’m hardly alone in this. For example, POLS 0110: “Introduction to Political Thought,” a class with nearly 100 enrolled students, has a paper due the Monday following Spring Weekend. And Spring Weekend falls smack in the middle of the last project for CSCI 0160: “Introduction to Algorithms and Data Structures” —  a course with 232 students.

Ultimately, SAO’s decision demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how reading period works. Far from a peaceful respite for studying before finals begin, reading period consists of a blur of papers and tests that make the actual finals period look almost tame in comparison. SAO should understand this, given that they state in their Reading and Finals Period Event Approval Policy that “large scale concerts, parties and events with alcohol are not permitted during reading period.” If that description does not evoke images of Spring Weekend, I would challenge you to find me any sentence that does.

Of course, one solution would be for professors to grant reading period more respect. After all, it is intended to be a period of study for upcoming assignments, not a blitz of essays and tests in its own right. But this is a much larger issue. This proposal is difficult to achieve because of the nature of large research papers and projects in many courses — assignments that could not be thoroughly completed during finals period alone and necessarily drift into reading period. Reading period has been around for a long time, and presumably professors have figured out the best way to use it. Besides, for all the importance put on Spring Weekend, it obviously comes second to students’ more pressing academic concerns. The point of Spring Weekend is to allow students three days to de-stress, yet by placing it within reading period, SAO has sabotaged both students’ study plans and capacity to fully relax.

If you aren’t familiar with Brown’s schedule, it might not be immediately apparent just how unfortunate and ill-advised this scheduling is. But SAO members must understand how reading period works, especially given that their office has published an entire policy on the subject. This erroneous choice represents an enormous lapse of judgment. No date would please everyone, but we could have at least avoided a date that pleases no one.

Vaughn Campbell ’18 can be reached at vaughn_campbell@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.