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The Winter Break of Our Discontent

Carol Folt’s endless six-week Xmas break has now begun, a destructive exercise that serves to further compress each of the College’s already-short four quarters, and supposedly reduces some heating bills, while letting more students go home for Thanksgiving. Are those our highest priorities?

While we might think of the foreign students who are marooned in Hanover for a month and a half, or have our hearts go out to Town merchants whose sales drop during the extended hiatus, the folks who really suffer from the lengthy break are the College’s students. Are nine-and-a-half-week quarters long enough for good learning?

Think in terms of opportunity cost: what if we ended the fall term in mid-December, and then spread the extra three weeks throughout the academic year by adding a five-day reading period at the end of each term? Would the quality of a Dartmouth education improve enough to justify extra spending on energy and food, and a greater commitment by the faculty. For example, professors would have time for extra office hours — where Dartmouth really distinguishes itself from its peers, and where a great deal of learning occurs — and even assign an additional paper on occasion. The College would be better for this change.

Surely a lover of rigor like Phil Hanlon (though I must say that we have not heard that word in many a moon) would want to sign on to an idea like this. Were he sincere, of course.

Addendum: The College is desperate to save money in all possible areas — except, of course, where the bloated staff is concerned. Having short, rushed academic terms and thousands of bureaucrats — why not? Let’s cut bone to save fat.

Addendum: There are one hundred football players who would really like to avoid having finals while they are preparing for the last game of the season.

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