Potential class-free day a ‘matter of small change’

Drue Aman

SDSU students could benefit from a day wiped free of classes the last school day before finals week during fall semesters.

Beginning in 2013, students in need of a day off from lectures and labs will get that wish with “Reading Day,” a class-free day designated to encourage a jumpstart on Finals Week preparation. It’s an ongoing discussion – one that would take approval from the South Dakota Board of Regents.

“The University’s open, the library’s open, students are on campus, faculty are on campus,” said Provost Laurie Nichols. “It’s not like we’re sending everybody home, we’re giving students that day to get ready for exams, with full access to professors.”

Reading Day coincides with SDSU’s future academic calendar proposal from 2013 to 2020. That proposal – with SDBOR approval – will extend Fall Semester by one to two days and start classes on Mondays in August, not Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

The earlier start times would also create a split schedule for finals, beginning on Thursdays of a school week and ending on Wednesday of the following week.

Paul Johnson, former president of faculty senate, said the main motivation to altering the calendar has more to do with fluctuations with the changing calendars each year than anything.

“It’s a matter of small bureaucratic change, switching some things to meet up right,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing mystical about it, it’s just a way of working with the calendar, and it’s only for the Fall Semester.”

There are mixed theories on how effectively used Reading Day would be used by students. Nichols said it’s premise – at minimum – allows peers to meet for a study session that may otherwise not happen. Student Association vice president Anthony Sutton thinks the pros of the earlier start date and Reading Day outweigh the cons.

“I think it’s good, if you’re going to split your finals, then it’s fair to have a non-class day,” Sutton said. “Some students may not use that day as much, but you’ve got to give it a chance.”

Johnson said the lengthened fall semester would be a minor change, noting that a difference of a day from 73 to 74 days alters a schedule very little. He also said that a sanctioned day for student-professor interaction overlooks a professor’s availability during a normal school week.

“We all readily accept student visitation,” Johnson said. “We have hours we allow for appointments, spontaneous catch-me-in-the-office type of things. For most of us, having a day set aside for students is not any great advantage.”