Philip Shippy — Staff writer
The Sabbath is a hard thing to keep as a college student. I have done my best to keep it, but with every weekday adding more homework to the pile, I struggle to get a good amount done with only Saturday to catch up. Add on top of this the desire to hang out with my friends, and I am constantly falling behind. I have also heard from my friends that even if they do homework on Sunday, they still struggle to keep up. All of this has led me to some questions: would longer weekends help? What would a four-day school week look like at Dordt University?
Let’s look at that second question first. I talked with David Mulder from the Education department, and he mentioned that, for Dordt’s accreditation, there needs to be a certain number of in-class hours depending on how many credits the class is worth. This means if we hypothetically have no class on Friday, the classes on Monday and Wednesday would have to be the same length as Tuesday and Thursday classes: 75 minutes.
This change in length would first affect the professors, as they would have to modify some of their classes to fit within the fewer but longer periods. It would take a lot of work and preparation, and some classes might not work as well, but I believe that it could be accomplished with enough prior notice to the professors.
The shakeup would also affect the scheduling of classes. Jim Bos from the registrar’s office said that currently Dordt slots all of its classes into 11 blocks: six 50-minute blocks and five 75-minute blocks. If we remove one day, then there would only be 10 blocks.
According to Bos, there are at least 350 classes taught each fall and around 300 classes taught each spring. With one less block to fit all those classes into, Dordt would have to pay close attention to each semester’s schedule to make sure students are able to take the classes they need to graduate. Students might have to take classes back-to-back more days as well.
Moving on to whether a four-day school week would be better, I think it all depends on the execution. For instance, a four-day school week can be structured in a few different ways. You could have the off-day on Friday, giving students a long weekend. This could help us with Sabbath-keeping, as we would have two full days to get homework done before Sunday. However, if people decided to go home on the weekend, it could mean that they would spend most of Sunday driving back to Dordt.
Alternatively, you could have the off-day on Monday, keeping the advantage of the long weekend while making Monday the potential travel day. Or, you could make Wednesday the off-day, where in the words of Bos, “you create two three-day rhythms. You have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and they mirror each other, which hopefully then would make Sunday significantly different.”
With each of these possibilities, you could also use the off-day to have some time for required labs or internships, removing some stress from the other days.
The benefits of a four-day week start to level out when we start talking about academics. I found a few different studies on this that either could find little to no difference between four-day and five-day weeks or found that the four-day week was worse for grades over time. It seems that the main factor for academics is the execution of the shorter week.
While this would be a big change, I think that Dordt should look into doing a four-day school week. While its effect on academics is a little questionable, I think that the extra day for homework could really help students stay on top of things, as well as allowing more students to keep a regular Sabbath rest.