The Friday 50-minute classes are a waste and a time sink. They force students to manage their schedule one additional and unnecessary day out of the week. Instead of creating another day in which you have to wake up early, get ready for classes, and barely cover any content in that 50-minute class increment, Monday and Wednesday classes should be extended by 25 minutes to allow for Fridays to be completely free, thus creating a three-day weekend.
A three-day weekend would be beneficial to on-campus students as well as commuter students since it would allow them additional time to go home, especially if they live far away. Furthermore, it would aid commuter students by limiting how many days in the week they need to drive to campus, thus mitigating the current burden of gas prices, which costs around $3.93 these days.
In California, there already exists a push in politics to move towards a four-day, 32-hour workweek to give workers more time off to interact with their families, cut down on time spent commuting and combat burnout and professional fatigue. Coming out of 2021, where roughly 48 million Americans quit their jobs during a phase called the “Great Resignation,” companies are looking at ways to keep workers engaged. That usually involves more pay and more time off. UMW should follow suit with more time off to keep students engaged and prevent the burnout that many workers in America are currently experiencing.
Educational fatigue is no different. Oftentimes students begin to fatigue towards the end of semesters, and classrooms become more sparse as the semester progresses. A move towards a four-day school week would bring more time off to many students, and they would start the new week with renewed vigor.
Additionally, a move towards a four-day school week would mean that students would have more dynamic ways to spend their weekends.
Sophomore history major Ryan Llufrio said, “An extra day off would give us time to rest, intern, work … or whatever else the students need to do. Also, it allows us to have a more consistent schedule.”
Other students, however, had a more pragmatic view.
“Students probably need more classroom time and more resources, and I don’t know how well that’s going to work,” said Joe Johnson, a junior international affairs major.
However, with more time off, students would be able to focus on clubs, sports and extracurriculars.
“I know that a lot of complaints that people have about this campus is the lack of campus life,” said Cassie Atkinson, a junior political science and communications double major. “So, I think that that would really help with that and give it a more vibrant atmosphere. People are always constantly going to class all the time. To actually have time to participate in these extracurriculars would be good.”
The four-day week could also benefit teachers.
“From a teacher standpoint, I know the school has difficulties with retention of professors, so a four-day school week could be a creative way to keep the staff on,” said Johnson.
While a longer weekend would benefit students, it would also afford faculty members more freedom and dynamism with their schedules. They could have more time to spend with their families, or they could use the open Friday to grade, thus leaving Saturday and Sunday completely open to their personal pursuits.
Even University President Troy Paino is intrigued by the concept.
“I think it’s an idea worth exploring,” he said. “I think the pandemic has ushered in a new era where students and employees seek more autonomy and greater flexibility as it relates to their schedules. Thinking differently about the work week and school week makes sense, so this idea is worth further discussion.”
A four-day school week would be a large shift from what UMW students are used to, but it would not be an unattainable feat.
“If we were to do something like this, I’d like to be thoughtful about it. There are many things to consider, but a creative approach to course scheduling as suggested could offer more blocks of time for experiential learning,” said Paino. “This could offer us an opportunity to be distinctive as we lean into out-of-class learning opportunities.”
While there are abundant benefits to a four-day school week, there are various factors to consider when looking at the activities students would pursue outside of the classroom.
“Campus life is a part of a residential liberal arts education, so I wouldn’t want to unintentionally encourage everyone to leave campus and FXBG from Friday through Sunday,” said Paino. “We want students to stick around and enjoy everything campus and FXBG has to offer, including extracurricular activities, during this time. With that said, I welcome an examination into thinking differently about our course schedule. Obviously, this examination should be led by our faculty and academic administrators with what is best for student learning as the focus.”
Regardless of how UMW decides to proceed, it is clear that businesses and institutions of higher education are investing time and thought into ways to combat mental fatigue and bolster mental health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and “The Great Resignation.” One solution to effectively meet those goals is less work and more time to pursue personal experiences.