The term “spring break” may be a misnomer for the week without classes given to students at the college each March. A “break” would imply a pause in work or activity, however, we at the Phoenix believe that when professors schedule midterms for the week after spring break, they remove the possibility of their students obtaining the benefits of this pause and inherently disadvantage certain students.
spring break is important for its ability to provide both academic and health benefits. It has long been observed by psychologists and educators that time off from work or activity improves the performance of students in the classroom. This same argument, which legitimizes naptime and recess in elementary school, should also legitimize the need for time off at the high school and college levels. Especially in the context of an institution like Swarthmore where a vast majority of the student body is made up of full time students who live on campus, the academic experience becomes an all-consuming aspect inherently involved in every part of student life.
Given the fact that Swarthmore students face a considerable amount of academic pressure during the semester, the need for a break is all the more essential. Periods of rest serve to alleviate stress and allow students to recharge before completing the semester. Such a break from academics improves mental and physical health and in turn improves the student experience.
By scheduling midterms for the week following spring break, professors prevent students from accessing the full restorative benefits that spring break is intended to provide. The pressure of an impending exam or paper can loom over a student’s break, demanding that they dedicate time to preparing for an evaluation, and monopolizing the time set aside by the registrar with the specific purpose of providing a respite from academic life. For students with midterms after spring break, spring break becomes nothing more than a reading week akin to the week without classes scheduled by the registrar before final exams.
Organizing midterms after break is further problematic because it prevents collaborative study as well as the opportunity for students to meet with their professors in person to ask questions and to review. Given the fact that over break most students leave campus, they are encouraged to prepare for their exams in isolation. This places those students who are accustomed to relying on study groups and office hours at an unfair disadvantage in their preparation for an assessment.
Finally, demanding that students spend their break studying is unfair to spring athletes who spend their breaks on spring training trips where they are called upon to be essentially full time athletes, practicing and playing games for hours on end each day. To ask these students to also dedicate significant time to studying for an exam allows them no time for relaxation and recuperation. Furthermore, students traveling to places where they may not have access to internet or may not have the ability to bring half a semester’s worth of books to prepare for an examination are further placed at a disadvantage.
Ultimately, we at the Phoenix believe that in order to ensure that spring break is utilized as a restorative period and to ensure that there is equity in the academic experiences of all of their students, professors should exclusively schedule midterm examinations for before spring break.