Section: Opinion

February break would alleviate undue pressure on students

As the winter chill deepens and the novelty of snow gives way to the dreariness of slush, the College’s continuous stretch of the spring semester without breaks becomes increasingly glaring. The current academic calendar, devoid of a break in the bleak midwinter, underestimates the impact of a well-placed breather on students’ mental health. A three- or four-day weekend in February would offer a sanctuary from the onslaught of deadlines and pressures, providing a vital opportunity for students to decompress, reflect and regroup.

The unbroken stretch of classes through the challenging winter months can take a toll on students’ mental well-being. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in early February 2023, 33.1% of adults in Ohio reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder. Introducing a break in February, even a brief one, could be a significant step toward alleviating this stress. A well-timed break has the potential to refresh the mind, reduce feelings of overwhelm and enable students to approach their studies with renewed energy and perspective. 

A short break in February would offer more than just a pause from academic rigor — but also a strategic opportunity for students to prepare for midterms. Away from regular class sessions, students could engage more deeply with their study material, allowing for a richer and more nuanced understanding of their courses. This time would enable them to identify key themes, connect different concepts and synthesize information in a way that is often not possible amid continuous coursework.

While the College has established grace periods as outlined on its website, the reality experienced by students often contrasts with the policy’s intent. According to the College’s website, these grace periods are designed to “ensure that students have adequate time, free from extraordinary pressures, to prepare for final examinations,” and to keep “winter and spring breaks free from substantial assignments.” Furthermore, these periods are meant to prevent disruption in the routine work of classes during the final week of the semester. However, in practice, these grace periods frequently coincide with a culmination of coursework and project deadlines, resulting in a situation where students find themselves under continuous pressure to complete assignments while also preparing for final examinations. 

This discrepancy between the policy’s intention and the students’ actual experience highlights a gap in the College’s academic calendar. The implementation of a dedicated February break could bridge this gap by offering a clear, uninterrupted period available for academic preparation. Such a break would provide a genuine opportunity for students to concentrate on their studies without the added burden of completing new assignments or attending regular classes, thus aligning more closely with the intended spirit of the grace periods and enhancing the overall effectiveness of the preparation time.

The success of the fall break in October serves as a compelling precedent. The positive impact of this break is evident — it rejuvenates the student body and provides a much-needed pause in the academic grind. Why not replicate this model during the spring semester, particularly at a time when students are most susceptible to burnout? As for the academic calendar, many students would willingly adjust the longer winter or summer breaks to accommodate a February respite. This proposition is not about adding more holidays but rather about redistributing our break days more effectively. 

It is also worth noting that Kenyon’s calendar currently omits several federal holidays, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Labor Day and Presidents’ Day. Implementing a February break would not only bring us in line with other colleges but also compensate for these omissions, ensuring a more balanced and considerate academic schedule that prioritizes the well-being of the college community.

Dylan Sibbitt ’26 is a political science major from San Francisco. He can be reached at sibbitt1@kenyon.edu.

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