Upon reading the news in last Tuesday’s Argus that the segmented reading week was going to be kept in place, I briefly considered not submitting a column at all, as I almost certainly would have four 15+ page papers due at the end of the semester with only two days to write each of them, and my time writing this column would probably be better directed towards beginning my research. In fact, I’m simultaneously reading three books at once and taking notes on all of them while typing this. Thomas Hobbes was born in 1588, and—curses, I forgot that I have to close windows to get to my reading notes! That just subtracted an extra two seconds from the time that I could have been writing down my researches!
In all seriousness, though, I cannot help agreeing with the editorial published by this august paper this Tuesday on the subject of reading week. Of course, I regret that the Argus believes that “dismissing our feelings as knee-jerk opposition to change, as some have done, is irresponsible,” since (as most of the campus knows) everything I believe is founded upon knee-jerk opposition to change. However, for the sake of persuasion, I will permit myself to opine in the rationalistic fashion which my more left-leaning colleagues find so persuasive. After all, taking the statements of the registrar and of the supporters of this new regime at face value, there is a mountain of logical inconsistency to opine about.
It seems there are two arguments in favor of the new program, and they boil down to the following assertions: firstly, that the former exam schedule generated complaints because of its late ending; and secondly, that the former exam schedule was undesirable because it gave students too much free time. These objections, given the context in which they occur, either make scant amounts of sense or fail to remedy their proposed maladies. Let’s consider the first one – that the former exam schedule generated complaints because of its late ending. So be it, but surely, if the ending of complaints is the objective of the administration, then surely there is no argument for keeping the current schedule, which seems to have aroused most of the audible campus into outrage. Obviously, the question is more nuanced than student complaints, and so the relevant question becomes: “Which students specifically does the university prioritize in its quest for an efficient academic calendar?”
Using the data from the Argus, the answer seems to be that the university is prioritizing international students over the rest of us. Why? One can’t say, except to point out that the Freeman Scholars Program is one of the gems in the university’s public relations crown, and so it probably aspires to keep the beneficiaries of said program happy. Again, so be it. But it is disingenuous in the extreme to make this a primary argument.
The second one—that students have too much time—once again boils down to the question of “which students?” Offhand, I can think of two groups which such a statement would describe. The first tends to be the sort that is academically gifted enough to have memorized all the material for their exams well in advance, and therefore can afford to spend a few nights doing things like playing in all-night sessions of Dungeons & Dragons. The second group tends to be the sort that is academically apathetic enough to strategically calculate how much they can afford to not study, and still pass, and so spend their reading weeks partying. If the administration is targeting the former group, then one has to ask why it feels the need to punish outstanding academic success, though this is unlikely. Rather, the administration seems to be targeting the latter group. But this will necessarily not induce the latter group to abandon their apathetic ways—it will simply make them take up valuable space in Olin library cramming the night before the test, while more engaged students could use that time and space more efficiently.
Of course, we will not return to the good old days due to the obstruction of administrative bureaucracy and those few enablers it has in the WSA. Now, I would support the notion of removing one day from orientation, except that I don’t think it goes far enough. What one ought to do is remove several days from orientation or, better yet, the entirety of the program. Only the sessions on plagiarism, alcoholism and drug use have the least bit of actual relevance to Wesleyan students, while most of the others (the EON and BiLeGaTa presentations come to mind) amount to nothing more than excuses for left wing student groups to officially propagandize. The university should not be wasting its time or its money doing this, and the over-enthusiasm of our peers certainly shouldn’t be punishing our study habits. If reading week cannot live as it used to, then Orientation must be killed to make room for it.