Teresa Taylor — Staff Writer
Since its foundation in 1955, Dordt University has held classes on Labor Day. Each year, students complain for a day or two, but the feelings fade as the semester progresses. Some students even seem to forget it’s a holiday.
Despite some grumbling, students still attend classes and complete their work. Theories circulate as explanation.
“They say, ‘Dordt’s afraid to take Labor Day off because they’re afraid that all the students are going to go home and then they aren’t going to come back!’” Jim Bos, Registrar & Director of Institutional Research, said. “We’ve never tested it, so I don’t know if there’s any truth in it.”
According to President Erik Hoekstra, the university is more concerned for the students who would not go home. More than 40 percent of students live farther than 400 miles away, making travelling home difficult — especially considering the semester just started. The freshmen unfamiliar with the campus or the community would be left to fend for themselves.
“We don’t want them to feel lonely or wasteful,” Hoekstra said.
If Dordt did not hold classes, Student Services or Campus Ministries would plan a day for freshmen to keep them involved and give them an opportunity to connect further. They would still be working.
“We’re also coming off a summer in which we’ve all had a very flexible schedule,” Hoekstra said. “Whereas if you’re a worker at a bank or a postman or a construction laborer, you haven’t had a day off since the Fourth of July.”
From an academic standpoint, Labor Day classes keep the rhythm steady as the school year starts. Allowing brains to turn back off for one last moment of summer interrupts the flow of the semester.
“We need to make sure that we have the right number of class days in a semester,” Bos said. “You can look at a calendar and you can figure out where we start, where Christmas is – assuming everybody really wants Christmas off and wants to be done before Christmas, and everybody really wants Thanksgiving off – and you just count, and you say, ‘We need fourteen weeks of class.’ Fourteen weeks of class means we need an equal number of Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, equal number of Tuesdays, Thursdays.”
Dordt allows the Monday at the start of the semester and the Monday after Thanksgiving as travel days, so students may rest on Sunday. Taking Labor Day off would mean another Monday to reschedule.
“We need to ensure that students have a specific amount of class time each semester in order to fulfill our commitments related to the number of credits associated with each course,” Leah Zuidema, Vice President for Academic Affairs, said. “If we were to take Labor Day off, we would need to then also consider where to add a day back in to the academic calendar.”
“It’s a tradeoff,” Bos said. “You want to take Labor Day off? Okay, then which other Monday are we going to put in?”
“We certainly do not mean to disregard or disrespect a national holiday. Dordt is an institution that does a great job of honoring all types of work being God-glorifying work and therefore worthy of acknowledgement,” Hoekstra said. “If the day is to acknowledge and celebrate work, I think working on that day is just fine.”