Poll Seeks Info on Attendance

By Emily Singer

During the week of Nov. 18, prior to Thanksgiving break, the Faculty Council, in consultation with members of the administration, sent a survey to all faculty with the goal of learning about pre-vacation attendance policies across the College.

Classes are typically held on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, with vacation officially beginning at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday. A large number of students do not attend classes on Tuesday, and sometimes Monday, due to travel plans. Airline tickets are less expensive and highway traffic is less severe earlier in the week than it is one or two days before Thanksgiving. Thus, students often choose to miss class in favor of more convenient travel options.

Professors choose for themselves whether to cancel class in the days before break. Due to varied policies and frequent early departures by students, the Faculty Council sent a survey asking about “their practices regarding the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the reasons they have adopted such practices and the extent to which they find the current Thanksgiving schedule agreeable,” according to Associate Professor of Philosophy and Faculty Council member Kareem Khalifa.

Dean of the Faculty and Philip Battell Sarah Steward Professor of Biology Andi Lloyd consulted with Faculty Council members on the survey.

“Discussions of our calendar at Thanksgiving have been going on, at least informally, for years,” Lloyd wrote in an email. “Faculty tend to point out that many students leave early, resulting in low attendance. Students will likewise point out that they leave early because flights are cheaper or because faculty cancel classes. [You can see] the feedback loop that could result … We decided to get a quick estimate of what’s happening this year in order to inform [future] decisions.”

Peer schools Amherst, Bates and Hamilton hold a week-long Thanksgiving break, but most — Williams, Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Trinity, Tufts and Colby, Swarthmore, Wellesley, Smith and Vassar, among others — all begin vacation at the end of the day on Tuesday.

Professors at the College who choose to cancel class before Thanksgiving do so of their own accord and choose to schedule an alternate class time if they deem it necessary.

Dean of International Programs and Edward C. Knox Professor of International Studies Jeff Cason co-teaches a class with Professor of Economics William Pyle called Democracy, Development and Globalization on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Cason and Pyle cancelled the class in anticipation of poor attendance.

“We decided to reschedule that Tuesday afternoon class to Wednesday evening of the final week of class, figuring that we would get a better attendance during the final week,” Cason wrote in an email. “We did not reduce the overall number of class sessions; we simply readjusted our class meeting times to avoid the Thanksgiving week.”

Cason believes that a weeklong Thanksgiving break makes sense and that it would be easy enough to extend the fall semester by a few more class days.

“We have shortened the exam time in recent years, so we could certainly manage a few more class days at the end, to give students a longer Thanksgiving break,” Cason said.