Length of breaks differs across Big Ten

For most universities in the Big Ten Conference, fall semester ends in mid-December, but other breaks throughout the semester âÄì including Thanksgiving âÄì vary from school to school. While some schools like Penn State University and the University of Iowa receive all of Thanksgiving week off, other schools, including the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, only receive Thanksgiving Day and the Friday after off. The University of MinnesotaâÄôs academic calendar is determined a few years in advance and is approved by the University Senate, made up of faculty, students and staff, Cathrine Wambach said. Wambach, chair of the University Senate committee on educational policy, said the Minnesota State FairâÄôs need to use campus parking through Labor Day on the St. Paul campus makes it difficult to plan a calendar that includes a longer Thanksgiving break or a fall break. âÄúI think everybody would love to have an extra week out there,âÄù she said. âÄúBut, weâÄôre kind of hemmed in by the fact that we share the St. Paul campus with the State Fair.âÄù When the University began the process of changing from a quarter system to a semester system in the late 1990s, a set of standards was implemented that requires a minimum of 70 class days, a week of finals and fall semester to end before December 23. These standards are what Wambach said tie the committeeâÄôs hands as far as building in longer break times during the semester. With students frequently skipping classes the week of Thanksgiving, Geoff Rushton , spokesman for Penn State University, said theyâÄôre trying out a week-long break this year. Rushton said Penn State used to have a long weekend, or fall break, for students around midterms, but neither of the short breaks offered students much time for travel. âÄúRather than having a four day weekend, I think a lot of students who are traveling any kind of distance from central Pennsylvania can get a lot more out of leaving the previous Friday or Saturday and spend some time for Thanksgiving,âÄù he said. Previously, classes were held through Tuesday or up until Wednesday at noon. Rachael Mortensen , who graduated from Penn State and is now a continuing education student at the University of Minnesota, said she remembers the frustration of trying to schedule a flight home around classes. âÄúIt was annoying when a professor would cancel class and I had a plane scheduled for after class,âÄù she said. Originally from Minnesota, Mortensen said she wonâÄôt have travel issues this year, but her Wednesday class was cancelled. When her professor asked who was planning to attend, Mortensen said only about 10 people out of the 90-person class raised their hands. Microbiology junior Ashley Kosloske also had two of her three Wednesday classes cancelled. She said sheâÄôll still go to the class that wasnâÄôt cancelled because she thinks the four day break is just long enough, especially since there is only a week and a half left of classes after break. If break was longer, Kosloske said the motivation to study would just âÄúgo down the drain.âÄù Economics graduate instructor Jahiz Barlas , on the other hand, said heâÄôll still hold his Wednesday night class. âÄúGiving the entire week off is unfair for students who pay,âÄù he said. Wambach said giving once-a-week night classes, like BarlasâÄô, a chance to meet is also important when considering days students will have off. But, nursing sophomore Matthew Nygaard , said most students just want a break, making it easier to justify skipping class. âÄúWhatâÄôs the point of going to a late class on Wednesday if it just gives them more travel time or time off?âÄù he said. Home for the holidays? Some students say itâÄôs too costly to travel home over Thanksgiving AAA recently announced the first forecasted decline in Thanksgiving travel since 2002. According to the projection, 1.4 percent fewer Americans will travel 50 miles or more for the holiday. The amount of Americans who drive this distance for Thanksgiving will decrease by 1.2 percent, and those who fly will decrease by 7.2 percent from last year, according to the report. However, travelers who choose to take the train, bus or other mode of transportation will increase by 5.8 percent. The change in travel trends, which AAA attributes to the high costs of travel and a weak economy, affects students who wish to go home during Thanksgiving break. Geography senior Jacob Luehring from Madison isnâÄôt going home for Thanksgiving this year, though he normally takes the bus home for the holiday. He said the high travel cost contributed to his decision to stay on campus. Tara Walker, an animal science sophomore, also decided not to visit family for Thanksgiving. Walker, from Burtrum, Minn., said she would normally drive home, but decided it wasnâÄôt worth the gas money. âÄúItâÄôs not as big of a deal as it was this summer, but itâÄôs still a cost,âÄù she said. –Megan Hanson