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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Solitary day of class offers opportunity for civil disobedience

Published: April 11, 2014
Section: Opinions

When I first saw the schedule for this semester and noticed that there is a day of class nestled between a weekend and April break, I didn’t think it was all that big a deal. I thought it was a bit unfair that there would be one day of class blocking me from a glorious 11-day break, but knew that I should probably go to class. I had intended to do the proper thing and stick around for the weekend in order to make that day of class, eventually heading home either Monday evening or early Tuesday. I don’t celebrate Passover, so being home by sundown on Monday wasn’t a necessity. Yet when the time came to plan my travel back home, I realized this poor example of scheduling was a big deal.

It made so much more sense to get home earlier over the weekend than to wait until my last class ended Monday afternoon to leave. Not only would it allow me more time with my family, but also the possible travel accommodations for a Friday or Saturday are much more flexible than trying to catch a bus at South Station in Boston late Monday night. It’s easier to find a plane, train or bus with a more feasible departure time if you have more of the day to work with; after a certain time, buses just stop running. Plus, the free shuttles run over the weekend, and I would take the first opportunity to not have to pay the commuter rail fare just to get to a Red Line station.

This isn’t exclusive to students, though. Professors have realized the same thing and would like to get away from work sooner rather than later. I know many classes have either been canceled or have just been stripped of any substantial instruction. Whether this is due to the fact that professors were asked to limit the amount of work for April 14 because of the holiday, the professors understanding that there will likely not be any students in class that day or if they just want an extra day off is inconsequential. No one is taking this day seriously, and no one is going to care if they miss a day of class right before a break.

By this point in the semester, people are looking for any excuse to get off campus. The weather is starting to break, and classes are starting to break spirits. Any respite is very much appreciated, and students will look for whatever excuse they can find to cut a class just to sit outside with friends after a very long winter. While these justifications can range from the insignificant to the absurd, cutting a day of class that shouldn’t have been scheduled in the first place actually makes sense.

All of this was realized already, though, pretty much as soon as people started to really look at the schedule at the beginning of the semester. But what should be mentioned along with the incompetence of the administration is the unique opportunity this single day creates. Since most classes are already canceled or just not pertinent to attend, students that remain on campus should just not go. Not for the opportunity to sleep in or head off campus, but to send a message. If the administration can see a tangible result of their actions through empty classrooms, that will strike a chord with them.

If students were to actively promote this proposed “sit-in,” it should take on a message larger than an attempt to make the administration understand that their schedule stinks. It should promote the larger message that students aren’t just going to lay down to the wishes of the administration and that their voices will be heard, whether it be about executive compensation or the “hunger games” that will inevitably occur at Sherman over the break. Students need to take every opportunity they have to make their views understood, and this random day before taxes are due is the safest opportunity to do so. Classes are mostly non-existent, and there isn’t anything crucial students will miss, so an argument could be made that the lack of responsibility connected with Monday makes any sort of protest insignificant as cutting class would be effortless. But as long as classrooms are empty, the idea will be portrayed all the same.

I don’t know what the administration had in mind when they put together the semester schedule, having a day of class being the only obstacle from an extended break, but they must have realized that April 14 would wind up being a complete waste of a day. Not only those students that need to get home for the holiday would be absent, but anyone else with enough common sense to rationalize that the benefits of leaving Friday or Saturday tremendously outweigh the pitfalls of missing one day of class. Sure, some students will be stuck on campus because they’re unable to head back home due to the distance, but there isn’t much to hold them back from leaving campus anyway to visit friends or relatives in the surrounding area. No one should be restricted from starting their vacation simply because there is a day of class scheduled.

Usually sometime in May or June back in high school there would be a senior cut day. Maybe my town was alone in this tradition, but everyone would decide a week or so before a set day to just not show up. While this was usually looked at as a day to just relax, it also was an implicit message sent to the school that they couldn’t control us. College changes this dynamic a bit, since we are here by desire and will only be disciplined with a failing grade if we don’t go to class, but the same message can be sent. So participate in a bit of civil disobedience, and make the university realize that we will not just blindly follow their policies.