Penn routinely ranks among the lowest in the Ivy League for the number of days dedicated to breaks. Given Penn’s reputation for having an unusually hypercompetitive campus culture, we should have more time off. Penn must make Presidents Day a University holiday to give students additional time to relax or catch up on schoolwork.
Within the Ivy League, Penn’s academic calendar stands out for the low number of days granted for breaks and reading days. For the 2019-2020 academic year, Penn and Dartmouth College tie at 111 weekdays for the least time off.
At Penn, this includes Labor Day, two days for fall break, two days for Thanksgiving, 18 days for winter break, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, five days for spring break, 78 days for summer break, and four reading days. Outside of the breaks between semesters, this amounts to only 15 weekdays off.
Other Ivies have single-day breaks that Penn lacks. Columbia students get Election Day off every November, Brown students have Indigenous People’s Day off in October, and Harvard has Columbus Day and Presidents Day off. Penn students receive none of these breaks.
Instead, Penn’s academic calendar condenses the semesters to allow for longer summer breaks, when the University uses college houses for various summer programs. Still, we deserve as much time off as most other Ivy League schools.
While one day off isn’t enough for most students to travel home or elsewhere off-campus, short, intermittent breaks during the semesters are far more meaningful in improving campus mental health. These kinds of short breaks allow students additional time to recharge and practice self care.
In the past, students have complained that the infrequency of these kinds of breaks at Penn reflects poorly on the University’s commitment to mental health.
“I think they are being very disingenuous by not at least acknowledging that the calendar is a mental health factor,” one student told the DP in 2017. “When you shorten our winter break and only give us two reading days to prepare for exams, there is an issue.”
Besides Dartmouth, which operates on the quarter system, Penn has the fewest reading days of any Ivy League school. Princeton University has three times as many days set aside for preparing for exams.
Other schools where Presidents Day is a student holiday include Stanford University, Georgetown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, George Washington University, Boston University, University of Southern California, Tufts University, New York University, and the University of California schools.
Penn students deserve more time off in order to cope with the stress that comes with their responsibilities here. Making Presidents Day a University holiday would demonstrate the University’s commitment to making substantial changes to improve wellness, and serve as a step towards a healthier campus culture.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.