Tuesday, June 28, 2005


The college week has gotten shorter by one day. In the olden times, there were Mon-Wed-Fri classes, 50 minutes in length. And there were Tue-Thur classes, 80 minutes in length. Jump into the Wayback Machine to when I was matriculating as an undergrad and there were also the occasional Sat classes, three hours long. Starting at 8 a.m. On Saturday. Every Saturday for 14 or 15 weeks.

Forget Saturdays, on this campus it became a challenge to get students to class on Fridays. Weekends for them start on Thursdays, which for years have been the biggest nights (nay, afternoons, evenings, too) for drinking, carousing and otherwise getting shit-faced-wasted on substances both foreign and domestic.

Profs grumbled for years about light attendance at Friday sessions. So a few years ago, departments quietly made a change in their class schedules. Now there are Mon-Wed classes, 80 minutes each. And Tue-Thur, ditto. No Friday classes anymore. Pffft. Gone.

Shows you where the power lies, doesn't it? To accommodate the social skeds and alcoholic consumption preferences of the young 'uns, entire wings of a four-year university shut down one day early every week. Of course, the prof-types don't exactly mind working the shorter hours. After all, the secretaries will still be at their desks in case somebody's ass needs covering with the dean.

But it's kind of sad to see how empty the campus looks on Fridays now.

What will these young adults do when they arrive in the working world and find out that the four-day week doesn't exist? That they might actually be asked, or required, to work nights and weekends, too? (At least in newsrooms, where new hires often are awarded the worst shifts.)

Get a job and it comes as a shock to some of these party hounds that there's no fall break, Christmas break or spring break. At a daily newspaper or TV news department, new staffers often are expected (sometimes required) to work holidays and are not allowed to ask for time off during busy seasons. Maybe there's a two-week vacation at the end of that first year, but it must fall sometime before or after the preferred vacation slots of the senior employees.

The kids of Generation Whine often think they can up and take off any damn time they feel like it.

Many's the time I've had a student sidle up to me after a Tuesday class to say, "I have to miss class on Thursday because I'm going home for the weekend" because: (a) Mom and Dad bought an airline ticket that can't be changed; (b) said family "requires" or "demands" that the student come home for a sibling's birthday, parent's birthday, grandparent's birthday, or other non-essential celebration; (c) both of the above.

They are shocked when I tell them these are not excused absences. In most classes, students are allowed only two absences total per term (except for university-related activities, such as travel for games).

Just before fall or spring break, it's remarkable how many elderly family members back home suddenly fall ill or die, requiring a student to buzz back to the homestead about four or five days before the official cessation of classes.

Another prof tipped me long ago to the funeral excuse. "Ask for proof. An airline ticket AND the newspaper obituary that proves grandma really croaked."

There also is the dubious "family meeting" that so many students say they have to go home for. "Who's your family?" I'd ask. "The Corleones?"


Blogger James said...

Pointing out that the working world doesn't allow appropriate amounts of off-time (at least in the US) says a lot more about what's wrong with the Real World™, and less about what's wrong with college campuses.

It's long been established that shorter work weeks make for more productive employees, but some Americans -- meaning, those who don't have slave for 40+ for next to no money -- can't seem to wrap their heads around this concept. The Kellogg Company at one point paid employees a 40-hour wage for a 30-hour work week, with no loss in profitability or productivity. And yet...

Maybe Generation Whine will actually be able to affect real, positive change in the way Americans' work weeks are scheduled. But probably not, because someone will always complain about the unfairness of it all.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But they're lazy...

They don't do 40 hours worth of work in 30 hours.

Hell, most don't even do 20 hours of work in 40 hours...

10:21 PM  
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