First, I want to thank Provost James O’Donnell for his efforts during what surely must be a stressful week. He and his staff are to be commended for their continued efforts to make our Georgetown learning experiences as valuable as possible, and his efforts to find new ways to connect students with their instructors are noteworthy.
I am seriously concerned, however, with the decision to resume classes on Presidents Day. I would like to make it clear that while I am not opposed to makeup days (in fact, I value getting my money’s worth of classes) it is extremely taxing to request that students attend classes – even with liberal leave in effect – only five days before a holiday. The Presidents Day break has been on the academic calendar since September, and students are generally encouraged to make travel plans on holidays and weekends in order to avoid missing any classes.
Those of us with travel plans on Monday face a tough decision. Despite the liberal leave policy, it is extremely difficult for students at Georgetown to miss any classes that their peers attend, particularly for courses that are graded heavily on curves or by participation. I’m sure the provost understands these concerns, but I must again stress the incredible pressures students face even without blizzard conditions – particularly at an extremely prestigious institution such as Georgetown.
Given that airlines often charge exorbitant fees for canceling or changing travel plans, it can be costly and inconvenient to change flights or other transportation reservations on such short notice. That problem is particularly acute on a campus as geographically diverse as Georgetown’s.
I understand the rationale behind this decision, but I must again stress the issues and pressures faced by students that exist in today’s extremely competitive atmosphere. While I have changed the travel arrangements I made in September and intend to attend classes on Monday, I must request more notice regarding a possible makeup day in the future. Many transportation agencies do not penalize customers for making changes well in advance. The more notice students receive, the higher class attendance will be. Holding classes when many students may be unable to attend, however, defeats the purpose of holding classes.
At its core, this academic institution depends upon its students, and every investment made by the administration in the well-being of the student body will be repaid tenfold with dedication both inside the classroom and outside in the community. Simple courtesies – such as giving advanced notice of makeup days – not only promote goodwill between students and the administration, but also provide optimal opportunities for students to achieve their highest goals: to learn, to grow and to develop understanding.
Alexander Shashlo is a sophomore in the College.
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