I’m not going to lie: The only thing that got me through the week before break was the knowledge that we were close to break. Between group projects and club elections, my days were overwhelming, and I looked with glee toward the empty days coming up on my calendar.
But my hope was really more theoretical. As a senior, I knew what Princeton winter breaks actually look like. I spend one or two days relaxing before I remember that I have an insane amount of work to do for Dean’s Date and a bunch of other commitments to fulfill. That doesn’t mean I get straight to work — although I do typically get some papers started over break — but it means that I feel guilty for not working. Break is never the mental break I want it to be.
That’s why I fully support the calendar reform, even though it won’t be implemented in time to impact me as a current senior. While I can’t imagine preparing for finals during my hectic December, in the long run I know that would be better for my mental health, particularly because I know professors would adapt their syllabi in response to the calendar change.
Moreover, as a senior thinking about and supposedly working on my thesis, I see the January term as a golden opportunity to make progress on my independent work. But similarly to the Editorial Board, I question how well the recommending committee thought it through.
On one hand, it would provide students an opportunity to explore areas they otherwise can’t — to hone fun skills or learn useful skills that can’t be learned in a typical class. It could also be a great opportunity to spend a few weeks learning abroad with a professor. Other schools have a similar concept and have for a long time, giving me faith in the idea.
But the recommendation discusses how the J term could be used for course credit. I simply cannot see how a three-week class would equate in any way to a regular twelve-week course. There might be a reasonable rationale behind the idea, but it wasn’t made clear in the recommendation and it doesn’t make sense to me
Instead, J term seems like the perfect time to make headway on independent work. My junior paper experience leads me to support one JP over two, at least in the politics department, because it allows the research to be more effective and meaningful. But if the department continues to require two, having some weeks in January dedicated to research would be worthwhile because we wouldn’t feel the need to work over break. Requiring or strongly recommending that upperclassmen stay on campus to work could be really productive and effective.
Overall, the J term isn’t an awful idea. But how well it works depends on the details of its implementation, and right now, those details simply aren’t clear. Either way, though, I can assure younger students of one thing: having a true winter break is definitely worth it.
Marni Morse is a politics major from Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.