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College Break-Creep
November 26, 2007 - 10:42pm


No, not the guy standing in front of the toilet door on the charter bus from Michigan State to Daytona who demands you do a JELL-O shot with him before he’ll let you pass and then when you do the shot he adds the stipulation that you also have to show him your hidden tattoo.

I mean something akin to what Chip, a midlevel manager I know, meant when he used the term “project creep” to describe his corporate difficulties to me. After I’d hung up on him for violating the no-jargon rule, I realized it was a useful term.

We’re experiencing break-creep here, where every holiday gets longer, no matter how much scheduled time administrators throw at it. (A phenomenon acknowledged last week in this article in Inside Higher Ed.) At Hinterland, Thanksgiving Break used to be the Thursday of Thanksgiving and the day after it. So many students were taking off earlier in the week that the university finally said, “Okay, look: Take the week. We know you’re taking most of the week anyway; just take the week off, officially, and we’ll call it good.” But the break continued to creep. This year some of my students began ducking out as early as the Tuesday of the week before Thanksgiving week.

Not all break-creep is perpetrated by students. Today I got an e-mail from the dean, forwarded by the department, saying that all those instructors planning to give final exams during the last week of scheduled classes (instead of during finals week proper) were wrong, and she didn’t care if the majority of students in each of those classes had voted for it. (I’ve never done this, mostly for one of the reasons stated by the dean: Students could wind up with three or four finals on a single day.)

Still, imagine the possibilities if the trend continues—a week off for Presidents Day, two-week spring and Thanksgiving breaks, eight-week winter breaks, six-month summers. It’ll be hard to teach a semester’s material in what’s left, but I’m working on a 10-minute lecture on the novels of Henry James, just in case.


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