Four days a week

Students rejoiced this last Friday when our Siberian Tundra had the nicest weather on record. While waiting in the huge line in Paresky, watching the nearly cloudless day pass by outside, I started to wonder if taking a break from classes wasn’t something we could do every Friday. Maybe it is time to expand this plan. Let’s make every Friday Mountain Day. That’s right, four day school weeks and a long weekend to boot. Many state-level government offices are now implementing a four day work-week designed to cut down on costs, improve productivity and reduce environmental impact (“The Four-Day Workweek Is Winning Fans” by Bryan Walsh, TIME Magazine, Sep. 07, 2009). Could it work here at Williams?

Having classes for only four days could decrease stress and improve students’ productivity. One fewer day of class is one more day of rest and one more day to make a schedule completely your own. An extra day off, in a sense, shifts the responsibility towards students, who must be trusted to use their time wisely and efficiently. If this were the case, the average student would benefit from having an extra day to just work on their problem sets, essays, readings and other assignments. In addition, professors and students would have another day during the week that they could give to research and time-intensive activities that do not take place in the classroom. And don’t forget about all the extra sleep!

Seniors and those taking a tutorial will see some of the greatest benefits from a four-day school week. Having, essentially, another weekend day to write papers, work on their theses or plow through the mountains of backed-up readings assigned for their upper-level classes could be a huge relief for those already struggling to fit that much work into evenings and two-day weekends.

Having a three-day weekend will also free up travel arrangements and will allow students to visit their families more often or take overnight trips without cutting into their class hours. Overnight backpacking trips are made much easier with an extra day to plan, pack, prepare or even set out.
There are also clear environmental benefits associated with not having classes on Friday: Energy costs go down because nobody is around to use all those lights, projectors and computers. Professors have to commute one less day each week, which helps cut down on gas consumption. And dining halls can provide a smaller breakfast on Friday like they do on Saturday and Sunday, cutting down on food waste.

A school week ending on Thursday would require condensing course schedules from five days to four, but such a move could come with minimal disruption. Without changing the amount of time students and professors are in class, one could easily make Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes into Monday-Wednesday-Thursday or Monday-Tuesday-Thursday classes with little disruption to the average schedule. Tuesday-Thursday and Monday-Thursday classes would need no change. This does mean that for some classes you will meet two days in a row, which may give you less time to complete assigned essays, problem sets, readings or other work. However, most assignments aren’t due the next class; most problem sets and papers are due at least a week in advance, and so a class that meets twice in two days wouldn’t affect your overall workload. Readings can either not be assigned one day a week (if you have class the next day), or professors can just assign smaller amounts of reading on those days.

A problem, however, does arise with introductory language classes that currently meet five days a week. If maintaining a total number of in-class minutes is the only issue, then a class block containing ten or fifteen extra minutes per day would cover the lost class on Friday. If, instead, the problem is that students need to be exposed to a new language as often as possible – making the five days of classes crucial to their studies – perhaps exceptions can be made to the four-day schedule that would help fit in language classes and long lab periods that could use the extra time.

Let’s face it: The average Williams student is overworked and overextended. What we could all use is an extra day of rest, an extra day to get our own stuff done, an extra day to catch up on all that sleep we can never seem to make up. What we need is a four-day school week, the perfect combination of environmentally-minded change and stress relief for our student body.

Sam Jonynas ’12 is from Chester, Vt. He lives in Carter.

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