It is the perennial paradox of Occidental students: when at school, we are constantly complaining about all of our school work, but once we get home for break we complain about how unendurably long the break is. To protect students from academic burnout while still saving them from a little too much family time over winter break, the college should implement an optional winter term. This term, spanning two to three weeks over the course of winter break, would offer more than just a reprieve from winter doldrums – it would give students a chance to participate in community service, engage with Los Angeles or explore Occidental’s diverse academic offerings in ways unavailable during the regular school year.
Too often, students are denied the opportunity to expand their academic horizons and delve into Occidental’s course catalog because they must fill their schedules with major and minor requirements. This is a significant loss to the type of inter-disciplinary, far-reaching education that Occidental espouses. Luckily, this problem can be cured in part by offering students the opportunity to take classes over the winter break. Biology majors could dip their toes in art history for a few weeks; English and Comparative Literary Studies majors could try their hand at that psychology class they always dreamed of taking. Additionally, those students who wish to engage in the myriad opportunities the city provides for service, cultural education or any number of other experiences could do so without the constraint of juggling multiple classes. This exploration of Los Angeles and the surrounding area could augment the efforts of programs such as OxyEngage by offering students even more time to immerse themselves in their environment; a type of “Oxy Re-Engage” for upperclass students.
The groundwork for a winter term has already been laid at Occidental. Student group Oxypreneurship hosted a one-week program this January to teach students the basics of becoming an entrepreneur. Other student groups would simply have to find a faculty adviser and follow the model set by Oxypreneurship to establish a winter term of their own. This student-led development of winter courses would be cost-effective and would ensure a level of student interest in the programs offered. Additionally, because the Marketplace and several residence halls are already kept open for athletes over the break, these spaces could easily be used to accommodate additional students staying on campus for a winter term. By using existing infrastructure and enlisting student assistance, the college could implement a winter term economically and efficiently.
The creation of a winter term is a sound investment in the future of the college. It is sensible from an administrative perspective and exciting from the perspective of students looking for new ways to enhance their education. And, of course, it offers a cure for the winter break cabin fever so familiar to Occidental students.
This editorial represents the collective opinion of The Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.