Well, I think we can all say that we’ve learned a very important lesson over the past week or so. If you want to piss UCSB students off, just fuck with their vacation time.
Of course, this was pretty bad timing. If the UC system had waited until the beginning of summer to announce the schedule change, most students probably would have shrugged it off. But instead, they chose the worst possible time to spring this news on us: two weeks into Winter Quarter, right when we were all wishing Winter Break was still going on. Not the greatest time to say, “Oh, by the way, you’re only getting two weeks off next year! Hope that’s all right with you. No hard feelings, eh?” Grrrr…
This isn’t a question of how much time off we get. With this change, we still get the same number of weeks of instruction and, by extent ,the same number of weeks off. This is a question of dispersal; the raw material doesn’t matter so much as when we get that break time.
The Greeks said, “Everything in moderation.” Our school schedule is not conducive to that goal. It is a schedule of extremes - long stretches of schoolwork, and then long stretches of time off. During the school year, we work pretty much straight through nine months. Then, after that academic baby has come to term, we’re suddenly facing more vacation time than we know what to do with: A summer break that stretches out over four months. What the hell am I supposed to do with a summer that long? Rewrite the Constitution?
And now, thanks to the UC Registrars, we have yet another week tacked onto that already-too-long summer, and, simultaneously, one fewer week during Winter Break that we could use to lighten the load during the school year when we actually need it…
Winter Break is not about Christmas. I, a Jewish-born atheist who has never celebrated Christmas, am very unhappy about this change, despite having no religious holiday to celebrate. Why? Because Winter Break, like the Christmas holiday itself, is merely a symptom of the winter solstice. Even at moderate latitudes, the waning winter sun has a pronounced effect on the human psyche. It causes significant percentages of people (myself included) to experience the winter blues, and causes many more to feel at least somewhat sluggish and unmotivated. (This isn’t news. We all hate the last week of Fall Quarter.) Winter is the time of year when our biological clock is telling us to crawl into a cave and hibernate. Or, in more human terms, curl up in front of the fire with a good book.
The bleakness of this time of year is the reason why we celebrate Christmas – a Pagan-derived holiday based around tranquility, familial love, and the rebirth of the sun – only four days after the solstice, and it is also why we take far more vacation time, and attach far more symbolic meaning to Christmas, than would be necessary if it were just another holiday. And if you take away our hibernation time, we’ll be as grumpy as a bear if you woke it in the winter.
Others have pointed out the unfair favoritism of changing the school schedule in order to accommodate a religious minority. Let’s be clear: anti-Semitism is a serious form of hatred. The very word brings to mind ghastly images of gas chambers, villages burning in pogroms and “A Resolution To Divest From Companies That Profit From Apartheid.” But lacking official observance of Jewish holidays is not anti-Semitism in any sense whatsoever. It’s life, and part of attending a secular public university.
If I were in a more acerbic mood, I might consider asking my fellow Jews to make the small concession of moving the High Holy Days to the week of December 14, 2014, so that everyone can be happy … but I don’t want to completely blow my chances of ever going on a Birthright trip, so I’ll avoid going down that road, and instead ask the age old question: Is this good for the Jews?
No, it isn’t. We didn’t ask for this schedule change. And since it was dropped into our lap, it’s hard for observant Jews to not be happy about it. People everywhere are quick to rage against injustice, until it favors them. That’s normal and human. But if we do take advantage of a small injustice that favors us, and shout down anyone who disagrees as an anti-Semite, then will that really generate goodwill and endear the students of this university to the Jewish community?
To the UC Registrars I can only say this: Please reverse this ridiculous schedule change at once. Summer Break is already too long, and Winter Break already too short. Please, please don’t make it even worse.
Jason Garshfield is a second-year political science major.