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Looking four-ward

| Friday, February 18, 2022

Second-semester seniors are pretty uniquely situated compared to the rest of the student body. Having successfully survived seven semesters of college courses, we are hardly daunted by an eighth. There’s a confident ease about us as we spend our remaining undergraduate days ambling around the quads and along the lakes, roaming the halls of the buildings in which we took our most formative and memorable classes and finally setting foot in those building in which we’ve never been — just to say we now have. We’re cherishing our waning weeks living so close to all the friends we’ve made over the past four years, aware that some of us might never live in such a communal setting as college ever again. We’re venturing off campus more, too, to make sure we’ve savored all that South Bend has to offer, leaving no local coffee shop untried and no park unattended. As we take our final steps around campus as students, we have one foot out the door, looking forward to postgraduate adult life. Some of us are all set for next year, with a job lined up or a spot in graduate school, while others are finalizing plans — or at least planning to make plans.

The most distinctive feature of the second semester of senior year, however, is our class schedules. Those taking a full course load are few and far between. Many of us have completed our major(s) and are either finishing up a minor or simply taking extra classes that spark our interest or seem useful for the future. The typical second-semester senior is enrolled in only three or four classes, and some as few as one or two. This usually works itself out to having at least one day without any classes at all. In my case, Tuesdays and Thursdays are open. Sure, we all have that one friend who’s taking twenty-one credits, but for the most part, this final semester has been our lightest one yet.

And it’s been good — the effects of ample time for leisure are noticeable. I’ve seen the gleam return to my peers’ eyes that was so bright when we first set foot on campus as first-year students but that was gradually dulled by the grueling work of our core college years, amplified by the pandemic and junior year job applications and graduate school entrance exams. We have time now. We’re enjoying ourselves. We’re engaging with the community. Sure, part of this is a natural perk of having put in the work for the prior seven semesters and having secured plans for after graduation. So, the situation is somewhat unique to being a second-semester senior. But some of this could — and should — apply to all students. We don’t need to trudge through seven semesters of our college experience to merit enjoying the eighth, to truly have time to embrace South Bend, friendships and campus life. We should have more time to do that every semester.

This is why it’s time for Notre Dame to institute a four-day school week. There are two forms that such a week could realistically take: We’ll call them the “4-3” and the “2-1-2.” The first option includes four days of classes in a row and a three-day weekend. Some of my peers have lived in a “4-3” world for years and rave about having free Fridays every semester. I, for one, never had the luxury of a three-day weekend in prior years (though I have taken a few of the enviable 8 a.m. classes in place). The benefits of the “4-3” week are quite enticing. You have Friday to tie up loose ends from the week and take care of essential tasks and then enjoy the evening and the entire Saturday that follows. Then, Sunday is for relaxation, and you can sprinkle studying into these days however you’d like. A three-day weekend allows you to ease into and out of the weekend, rather than blinking and finding yourself already at the start of a new week.

An alternative with an equally compelling allure is the “2-1-2,” attending classes Monday and Tuesday, taking a break Wednesday and resuming classes Thursday and Friday. Such a schedule makes the week more digestible and would enable us to put a better foot forward in our classes that fall later in the week after a Wednesday recharge, rather than starting off strong on Monday but fizzling out to absent-mindedness and drudgery as the week goes on. The heart of the argument for the four-day school week is not that we students are lazy, looking to cut academic corners wherever we can and seeking to minimize the “school” part of college, but quite the opposite: Concentrating our classes over a span of fewer days lets us better concentrate on them. Rather than spreading our classes out over five days and feeling as though we’re in a perpetual state of school, in which we don’t have much urgency to maximize effort because we know we’re stuck here a while, knowing instead that we have a more limited number of school days and a break in the middle of them or a lengthy one at the end incentivizes us to give it our all while we are in class. And I must add, if it is “lazy” to want to spend a substantial portion of your life engaging with friends, hobbies and your community and taking care of yourself, then I’ll gladly except the label of “lazy.”

Between the “4-3” and the “2-1-2,” both forms of the four-day school week have their advantages, and I don’t have a particular preference for either as things stand. But there’s one thing I know: the “5-2” has got to go. It’s easy to keep things as they are when every other university operates on a five-day school week, but Notre Dame has the opportunity to be forward-looking here. Take a chance. Give it a try: One experimental semester of the four-day class week. Once you do, I’ll bet you won’t ever want to go back.

A former resident of Lyons Hall, Eva Analitis is a senior majoring in political science and pre-health. Even though she often can’t make up her own mind, that won’t stop her from trying to change yours. She can be reached at [email protected] or @evaanalitis on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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