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Last Tuesday, I could have spent the day studying for an organic chemistry exam. Instead, a scheduling quirk forced me to study between classes — on the Day Formerly Known As Fall Break.

This may not sound as pathetic as it could, but I have plenty of friends who would have spent that time in New York, or at home, or, you know, drunk. The single-day break from classes left us confused, unrelaxed, and, upon our return, not especially well rested.

If that doesn’t earn your sympathy, think of the children! When, exactly, are freshmen supposed to break up with their high-school significant others, if not now? Fall break allows first-year students to return home, reassure their mothers that they do still eat, do four loads of laundry (don’t deny it, froshies!) and get rid of that pesky boy- or girlfriend from a past life. Hundreds of 18-year-olds now must stay saddled with failing, Facebook-reliant relationships until the faraway date of Thanksgiving. Thanks, administration.

The shortening of fall break serves, more importantly, as a sign of overall scheduling chaos. As you’ve probably noticed, finals end on Dec. 22, and winter break falls short of last year’s by six days. Director of Undergraduate Education Rob Nelson noted that, once upon a time, winter break was far shorter; in 2006, it was extended, “an anomaly of the last few years.” Unfortunately, students have short memories — I came to Penn in 2006, and, like the rest of the undergraduate body, I never knew those famine times.

And like any red-blooded American, I’m ready to fight for what I’ve arbitrarily decided I’m entitled to.

A full winter month without classes.

Clearly, students attend Penn to learn. But one cannot overestimate the value of downtime, and the rhythm of these breaks makes a huge difference in how well we survive the semester.

Extending summer break serves little-to-no purpose. By late August, everyone has reached the requisite stage of excitement (or resignation) leading up to the start of classes, and a few days make very little difference. Off-campus housing landlords allow students to move in on Sept. 1 (the Radian) or 2 (Hamilton Court), and the normal starting date of classes, around Sept. 4, has always served us well. Starting later just means a few more days lazing around, at home or at school.

However, changes at the other end of the semester can have more negative ramifications. With finals ending Dec. 22, some students will need to pack up in a rush and hightail it home to put presents under the tree. And since many families travel for the holidays, some of us will reach home only to turn around again and head elsewhere. Personally, I’ve always cherished the few days of relaxation before the holiday rush. And as for the rest of Penn students, well, Philadelphia is cold in December.

Central to my argument is this: A semester at Penn is a marathon. By December, many of us have burned out — if not broken down — completely. (CAPS is free for a reason, guys — take advantage.) Four days of fall break act as a pause at the bottom of the hill before the roller coaster starts up again; winter break allows us to recover our sanity and enter the spring semester with a renewed sense of purpose. I may sound like a whiny three-year-old, but Amy, we need that break!

Clearly, we owe this semester’s changes to a late Labor Day. However, according to the academic calendar, 2010 and 2011 will see finals end on Dec. 22 and 21, respectively, though fall break will return to its normal length. The school should consider pushing the start date up, even if it means playing with breaks in order to ensure parity between class days. Starting on Friday, Sept. 3 and moving fall break to a Friday-Monday sequence could allow for these changes and let us get home well before Santa comes to town.

Now that would be a holiday miracle.

Lindsey Stull is a College senior from Oklahoma City, Okla. Her e-mail address is

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