Fall breakers: Should we have an autumn respite?

Stressed students and faculty could use a holiday-like spring break in the fall to balance out the two semesters.

Chris Iverson

Well, time to go back to reality, I suppose. As we all rest from our spring break hangover and get readjusted to the continually thawing University of Minnesota campus, at least we can partake in a reverie.

For some of us, our week off was a simple retreat back home to decompress from class. For others, it was more like the plot from “Spring Breakers,” filled with parties and borderline illegal activities. Nonetheless, I am sure the student body majority is thankful they were able to turn their minds, hearts and emotions away from lectures, discussions and late-night study sessions for a full week.

Spring break timing is usually perfect, too. The weeklong vacation occurs exactly halfway into the semester, at the point when Minnesota and much of the country is just starting to warm up, but exotic vacation locations still sound salivating. Popular tourist destinations like the notorious Panama City Beach rely on college students and other travelers for continued revenue. Some motels, restaurants and businesses in PCB said they only survive due to the spring break stampede.

The break happens directly after midterms, giving students a well-deserved rest from pulling out their hair from studying and test-taking. In another light, spring break gives normally part-time student workers a chance to make some extra cash and work full time.

Every reason to have a spring break, whether for business or for pleasure, also justifies a fall break sometime in the first semester of school.

In fact, it’s almost baffling that there isn’t a fall break at the University. With our large student body and constantly bussing campus, both semesters are essentially identical in academia. Aside from the two-day break on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the semester calendars are identical, and both spring and fall semesters are equally stressful. Spring and fall should both deserve a quick dash away from schoolwork, and currently at the University, only the latter has a seasonal respite.

The benefits to a fall break in the calendar year would be similar, if not even better, compared to spring break. First off, the autumn season in Minnesota tends to contain the year’s most beautiful and attractive weather. Instead of college students dashing to Florida or Cancun to dispose the tundra for a week, there could be a push to stay and spend locally, pumping tourism and travel into the upper-Midwestern economy. Popular local destinations like Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior could become go-to fall break destinations for University students in early to mid-October. If there were a fall break this academic year, it could have landed on the week of Oct. 21, when daily temperature highs usually linger around the 40s and 50s.

If the University timed it appropriately, the school could also build some athletic pride by allowing students extra time to travel to away Big Ten football games or other events. Similar to spring break, students could also simply get away from school for a while or make extra money at their jobs to spend during winter break.

Of course, challenges always arise over schedule changes, and adding a fall break would be no exception. Instigating this October break would be especially difficult in Minnesota. State law states that all primary and secondary schools, with a few exceptions, are not allowed to commence a school year prior to Labor Day. This law has been in place on and off since 1985, and currently, only two other states — Wisconsin and North Carolina — have laws restricting school starts to after Labor Day weekend.

In order for University students to have a week off in the fall, state lawmakers would likely have to modify the law. However, a large section of the summer economy is in favor of the restricting statute and would be against this change. Popular summertime employers have testified in favor of the statute, stating that the school start restrictions allow many to hold their summer jobs for a longer period of time. Comparatively, a recent 2012 study from the University of Minnesota Tourism Center revealed that a post-Labor Day school start time increased the likelihood that families take at least one trip away from home in late August or September by 50 percent. This truth alone would turn the fight to repeal the statute into a bitter one.

To create a legitimate fall break, we would all have some compromises. Placing a weeklong break without changing the Labor Day law would be tricky, as finals currently push right up against winter holidays. Instead, a shorter fall break covering two or three days could be realistic. Other schools in the area, such as St. Cloud State University and Hamline University, have a short midterm break in October. The University could replicate this by giving students Monday through Wednesday off sometime in October. To make up for the time, the University could consolidate some Welcome Week activities.

As a student, I certainly enjoyed relaxing over spring break and getting away from the cold for a while. However, I would love the opportunity to relax in the fall in a similar fashion while the Minnesota weather is still bearable. Providing students a short break would suffice.