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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Registrar: break in Feb. an anomaly with advantage

Published: February 10, 2012
Section: News

University Registrar Mark Hewitt believes that Brandeis’ peculiar break schedule, one during February and another in April, is actually advantageous to the students, faculty and administration.

“Oddly enough, I think this actually works,” remarked Hewitt as he discussed the two-break system. “It seems appropriate for Brandeis.” With Brandeis’ large Jewish population, maintaining a break during Passover is convenient, as it allows students, faculty and administrators to celebrate Passover with their families. For students who do not celebrate Passover, it permits another break between midterm recess and the last day of classes.

Midterm recess was not always practiced at Brandeis. It was not until 1986 that Brandeis decided to have two one-week breaks instead of the standard one two-week break that would fall during Passover.

“My understanding is that it came from the dean of students’ request,” says Hewitt. “The thought was that students needed a break between the start of classes and the time of Passover break. When it’s really late, you can make a fairly good argument that people need a break some time before then.”

Academically, the two breaks do not appear to create conflict. Joseph Wensink, who has taught UWS at Brandeis for five years, appreciates the timing of midterm recess. “It works pretty well because it gives a definite barrier for that first essay. It actually falls at the perfect time for my course.” Though Wensink is thankful for the schedule in February, he believes that Passover break is more disruptive in terms of class schedule.

In terms of timing, this might not be understandable since this year’s midterm recess arises only five weeks after classes begin and Passover break falls two weeks before classes officially end. That leaves a large gap between the two breaks—far from the midterm recess being between Passover break and the start of classes. The reasoning behind the timing of the midterm recess makes sense. It coincides with the school breaks in Massachusetts and, unlike other universities, Brandeis gives a break during this time in February so that faculty and administrators may spend time with their families.

Students do not always have the option, however, of returning to their hometown. Many Brandeis students do not live locally and some are not from this country. Some students find that traveling during the midterm recess is a problem, and not even worth returning to their hometown.

One student, Alexis Perry ’15, will not go back to California during midterm recess. “I’m not going back because it’s expensive to get a plane ticket, and what’s the point to go back for a week?”

Students often feel conflicted about the choices of returning to their hometown, especially for such a short period of time. Difficulties also arise, not only for students, but for the faculty. Jorge Arteta, who has been teaching in the Hispanic Studies department at Brandeis since 1999, describes the midterm recess as a positive thing for families, but detrimental for traveling.

“It does allow me to spend time with friends of mine and their children,” says Arteta, “but, if I were very selfish, a bigger chunk of time would allow me to go to Spain at a time when the fare is not so high—because in February break, all the airfare goes up. Every thing is too expensive. I can’t afford it.”

Arteta, however, is not discouraged. He finds manageable ways to travel and explore the sites around him. He even suggests advice for students, “I think it’s a matter of creativity—coming up with something to do. For those who can’t afford it, it’s an opportunity to explore Boston. It’s a great city; there are lots of things to do.”