The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Opinion | It should be Reading Week

I called my parents earlier this week, and, because they love me so much, they wanted to check in and ask about my final exams schedule. I told them: MATH 347H from 7-10 p.m. on Dec. 11 and PHIL 203 from 8-11 p.m. on Dec. 14. And, of course, there wouldn’t be any more classes starting Dec. 7 — that’s Reading Day. 

Instead of appropriately breaking down and crying that their shining son wouldn’t be coming home until at least next Thursday, my mom and dad’s faces wore confused expressions.

“Reading … Day?” they asked in unison, as though I was speaking a different language.

Both of my parents are Wolverines. Back in their day, their college at the University of Michigan apparently held a full Reading Week. However, a quick Google search revealed that, nowadays, U of M schedules only one weekday — today — for studying.

Yet, Reading Week survives elsewhere. This article from ThinkStudent explains the concept, only refers to it as a “week” and doesn’t entertain the concept of a “day.” That said, it is a British website.

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    Here are some American examples: Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences usually sets aside a week-long Reading Period, and the students of Harvard University get Wednesday through Sunday this semester.

    So I’m curious: Why is the University of Illinois’ Reading Day … only a day? 

    The rationale for a reading period is as follows: Writing lengthy essays based on dense source materials is time-consuming. It’s unreasonable to expect students to successfully write or prepare for multiple term papers and final exams on top of normal classwork, so a university builds in a buffer period to allow that work to get done.

    Take PHIL 203, or Ancient Philosophy, for example. To be prepared for my exam, I will want to reread most of the class material. That might add up to well over 200 pages — and if you’ve ever read Aristotle, you’ll know how long that takes. This semester, I’m lucky: The test comes at the end of finals week. But if I had three or four classes like this, and on top of the exams, I had papers? There’s no chance I’m finding the time.

    And I doubt one more day is going to help. So what gives?

    I assume the reasons are twofold. First, at the University, final papers are typically due at the end of finals week. In other words, finals week occupies the role of a Reading Week. This reason feels weak, however, since the same papers at universities with reading weeks are still typically due at the end of their finals week.

    Second, nobody cares about humanities students. That scenario — a whopping five simultaneous term papers — is unlikely to be experienced by anyone who knows calculus. Fact is, since taking a biology exam doesn’t, in the University’s eyes, inherently require any outside time — as if bio majors don’t have to study —, Illinois doesn’t feel the need to give them a Reading Week.

    But that means the students of the humanities and social sciences suffer, which brings me to my conclusion: The real enemy is a one-size-fits-all solution. There is no particular reason for the reading period to be the same for all classes across all majors in all colleges. 

    And so I motion: To give paper-heavy curricula the extra reading time they demand, classes in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences should observe Reading Week.

     

    Noah is a freshman in DGS.

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