Spring break homework should be discouraged

Spring break is supposed to be a relaxing time for students, an ellipsis in the middle of a hectic semester. Whether heading to the beach or home to see family, for many of us spring break is the “light at the end of the tunnel” that gets most students through the stress of midterms and projects.

With all the thinking and planning and waiting that I put toward March 14-18, it feels like a right, something that is mine and that is not to be messed with. There is only one thing that can bring that glorious feeling of impending freedom crashing down: homework assigned over the break.

No student likes getting an assignment, but having a paper or project sprung on you in the week preceding vacation is particularly heinous. Apparently, instructors at Cornell University agree. According to a March 2 article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the college’s faculty senate will vote on a bill before the end of the month that would “strongly discourage” professors from assigning work before breaks from school.

Of course, this resolution is not a free pass for students to procrastinate until the Friday before break and then complain that they are forced to study during the holiday. Cornell also has made it clear that if a student has known about an assignment for several weeks or if an assignment was posted on the syllabus at the beginning of the year, he or she is still responsible for it. Instead, the proposal focuses on eliminating “surprise work,” or homework assigned a few days before the break with a due date falling either during the holiday or immediately after it.

Cornell is promoting this idea as a way to reduce student stress stemming from unmanageable course loads. This is a great way to ensure that students return to campus rejuvenated and ready to tackle a new wave of projects, assignments and tests. The entire purpose of spring break is to provide a respite, even a temporary one, from the constant struggle with deadlines and assignments. Cornell has been heralded as a frontrunner in trying to provide support for stressed or troubled students, and the resolution is a change that was enacted after several students at the university committed suicide a year ago.

TCU could benefit from this kind of policy as well. Provost Nowell Donovan said the university currently has no regulations on professors assigning work over breaks. Placing a ban on surprise work assigned right before a break would do a lot to help alleviate students’ frustrations. It is unfair to force students to allocate time to complete homework instead of spending that time with family or friends.

Also, a number of TCU students are planning to spend their spring break on mission trips or other volunteer opportunities that can take place in remote locations, often without access to e-mail or Internet. Professors should not penalize these students with a poor grade because they did not have the tools necessary to complete an assignment.

I realize the snow days threw everyone’s schedule off, putting us behind and leaving professors frustrated, but using spring break as an opportunity to catch up is unrealistic. Instead, TCU should follow in Cornell’s footsteps and let us enjoy our nine-day break from classes for what it is: a break.

Katie Terhune is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Helena, Mont.