We are now in the eighth week of the fall quarter, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Thanksgiving has always been an awkwardly placed holiday, occurring only on Thursdays with no conveniently placed Saturday or Sunday to form a long weekend. In the case of UCR and some employers, an additional Friday is shoddily pasted to the Thanksgiving holiday to create the resemblance of a long weekend. And though employees and students everywhere are grateful for the additional day, it is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that would actually be most appreciated by students and employees alike. In extending the Thanksgiving holiday to include Wednesday, UCR would not only make its students and employees happier, but also save money and decrease the attrition of students and staff who otherwise take the day off.
If one were to step foot on the UCR campus on Wednesday, Nov. 21, they would likely find the population on campus to be little more than leaves being swept about by gusts of wind. The usually busy HUB contains only a smattering of people. The University Lecture Hall, its 500-person seating capacity normally ignored in an effort to cram as many students into breadth requirement courses, allows students the only opportunity to stretch during the entire quarter. And only on this day is it possible to find a space in Lot 30 within a couple of minutes. For all intents and purposes, the campus is deserted the day before Thanksgiving. Any casual observer could be excused for mistaking Wednesday for the actual Thanksgiving holiday.
The overnight transformation of UCR from a thriving campus community into one of the fabled ghost towns of the pioneering days of the Old West is due to the departure of students who wish to spend the extended weekend at home with the family. Data from the University of California Office of the President shows that over 1,200 UCR students are not from the state of California. This number actually understates the number of students who return to see family for the holidays, as many students are from Central or Northern California, and a trip back home takes just as long for them as someone from Colorado. A student who wants to spend time with family in San Francisco for Thanksgiving must travel over 430 miles, an expedition that can easily take over eight hours. By the time he or she arrives, Thanksgiving is already over, and not all families have the luxury of being allowed Friday as an additional day off. By not granting students the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving as a holiday, UCR is forcing students to make a decision between attending their classes and attending the Thanksgiving reunion of their friends and family. Every grain of sand that runs through the hourglass is precious. Can students really be faulted for opting to spend their valuable time in a cozy dining room with their loved ones instead of in a cold lecture hall?
Even students who are from the Riverside area would benefit from a holiday on Wednesday. As anyone who has cooked a Thanksgiving dinner will attest, preparation is most of the work. Should a student decide to host a Thanksgiving feast, he will only have Thursday—the day of Thanksgiving—to prepare. Anyone would be hard-pressed to stuff the turkey, heat the rolls, steam the vegetables, bake the pumpkin pie and prepare for a mob of guests in just one day. What’s more, all these delectables must be purchased in advance. Not all stores are open on the day of Thanksgiving, and even then one has to contend with the hordes of people snatching up every last turkey in sight. A quick shopping trip can easily mutate into an hours-long expedition, the last thing anybody would want before expecting additional people for a Thanksgiving meal.
This is the reality of the Thanksgiving holiday—the day before Thanksgiving is equally, if not more, important than the day after. Many students already realize this and simply don’t attend class on Wednesday. In turn, professors realize that student turnout will be low and cancel class. What’s left are scores of unused classrooms with the lights on and electricity wasting away, a valuable day of instruction that is practically abandoned, and students and staff who spend their day listlessly waiting only for the day to be over. The creation of a holiday on Wednesday has the same purpose as the institution of allowing students and employees the Friday off: it prevents attrition and saves resources for when people are actually interested in coming to work or school.
UCR students would not be the only beneficiaries of an extended Thanksgiving break. Campus faculty and staff also have family in other states and need to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday as much, if not more, than students. Families would appreciate having their loved ones close for an additional day. Supermarkets and other businesses would see increased revenue from students and staff as they have more time to purchase goods to prepare for Thanksgiving. And the university itself would save money by cutting its losses and shuttering the campus on a day that most of the campus population has already left.
Compensating for the additional day off would be simple: all UCR has to do is start the fall quarter a day earlier. Students already must attend the Thursday and Friday of Week 0 as compensation for Thanksgiving; the Wednesday before Thanksgiving could just as easily be moved to Week 0. The Riverside Unified School District and other local school districts, as well as semester-based colleges such as California State University, Fullerton, already grant their students weeklong breaks for Thanksgiving. It is true that they operate on the semester system, but if allowing students a week for Thanksgiving Break is possible, adding only a day to the Thanksgiving holiday should be just as feasible even for a quarterly school like UCR.
For many families, Thanksgiving dinner is a time-honored tradition. And there’s nothing like eating a warm, delicious meal surrounded by people you love and know love you. UCR students shouldn’t have to decide between the success of their academic career and the people they love. UCR staff don’t need to have to choose between earning a day’s pay and their families. UCR professors shouldn’t be forced to decide between lecturing before a cavernous classroom and spending time with relatives. UCR can save money. More importantly, it can improve the happiness of its students and employees. The campus is already unofficially closed on the day before Thanksgiving. All it has to do is make it official.