Students at Miami University are excited to kick off their Thanksgiving break – which doesn’t start until the day before the holiday.
Most sit impatiently through their two days of classes before heading home, but some start their break early, leaving professors wondering what to teach in spottily attended classes.
Students leaving the weekend before Thanksgiving aren’t just trying to sneak in a few extra days of vacation, though. Most of their reasons for leaving early are related to travel, such as cheaper flights or their rides’ schedules.
Delaney Towers, a sophomore social studies education major from Florida, said her travel costs as an out-of-state student influenced her decision to leave the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“As an out-of-state student, it doesn’t make sense for me to leave Wednesday and then come back on Sunday,” Towers said. “It’s too expensive to be worthwhile.”
Towers said Miami’s policy of having class the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving is unfair to out-of-state students, especially those with longer travel periods.
“I think everyone should be able to celebrate that week with their families since it is such a family-centered holiday,” Towers said. “It’s kind of naive of the university to think out-of-state students can do that when given such little time to get home.”
Paige Fisher, a sophomore strategic communication major from Washington, said she won’t be going home for Thanksgiving due to the break’s short duration.
“Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be logical for me to fly all the way home and then fly all the way back,” Fisher said. “It’ll be my first Thanksgiving without my family. It’ll be hard.”
Fisher said between driving to the airport, going through security and flying, it takes her about half a day to travel home. If the break were a whole week, she may have decided to make the trip.
“I haven’t been home since August. However, it is so close to the end of classes that it’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll just stay here and tough it out to the end of the semester,’” Fisher said.
Professors at Miami vary in how they approach their courses the days before break, with some carrying on as usual, some making it a work day and others canceling class altogether.
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Kate de Medeiros, a professor of sociology and gerontology, said she is having an attendance-optional work day for her class the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
“I will have class because some students are here and want to participate, but I understand that many have to go home,” de Medeiros said. “People who are interested and want to come can, but other people won't be penalized.”
She said she would prefer a different Thanksgiving break schedule than the one Miami currently has.
“I personally would rather see the whole week off,” de Medeiros said. “I don't see the value in actually making someone attend [that Monday and Tuesday].”
Some courses can be made virtual to help traveling students, but others require the classroom.
Tracy Featherstone, a professor of art, said she will still have her printmaking class that Tuesday because it requires the use of Miami’s facilities.
“I think the students really need the extra work time because it's not like when they get home, they can work on it,” Featherstone said. “That class day is really important because when we come back, we’re in the last week.”
Featherstone said although she suspects most of her students will attend, she will not penalize those who do not.
“I’ll help them with techniques and stuff, but I won't be introducing new material,” Featherstone said. “It's a basic workday, but I suspect most of them will really need it.”
Featherstone said she would prefer if the semester ended before Thanksgiving, like it did last year, over having a week off and coming back for finals.
“We go away for Thanksgiving and they come back and it's only a week, and that's the part [of the semester] that gets kind of crazy for me,” Featherstone said.
Despite mixed opinions about having class the week of Thanksgiving, the policy appears impossible to avoid without altering the beginning or end of the semester.
Carole Johnson, associate director of university news and communication, wrote on behalf of Miami that its Thanksgiving break policy was constructed to help meet the number of instructional days required by the state of Ohio.
“We considered a 2021-2022 academic calendar that included a week at Thanksgiving,” Johnson wrote in an email to The Miami Student, “but it would have required lengthening the semester. In the end, it was not feasible.”
One positive of having class the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, de Medeiros said, is that it prevents students from leaving during the week before, as some do with spring break.
“Keeping Monday and Tuesday at least keeps that holiday in check somewhat,” de Medeiros said. “I don’t have students that miss the Thursday before Thanksgiving, for example.”