The Bar-On Brief: Fall break exists thanks to student demand

The Bar-On Brief: Fall break exists thanks to student demand

Engemann Student Health Center and Undergraduate Student Government gathered data that demonstrated a spike in counseling requests from students around the eighth week of the fall semester. (Daily Trojan file photo)

Too often is the media looking to scrutinize USC for not listening to students, for not taking care of scandals and for hiding information from students. While criticism is certainly valid and necessary, there are times when applauding the University is called for — and the implementation of fall break is one such time.

Students found themselves all over the world last weekend. Some visited friends studying abroad, some spent time with family and others took time to relax in Los Angeles. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the smartest move to overlap break with homecoming weekend, but let’s look at the bright side.

The Undergraduate Student Government pushed for the break by passing a resolution in Fall 2018, and although faculty previously disapproved of the proposal, USG collaborated with the Engemann Student Health Center to gather data showing a spike in student requests for counseling around the eighth week of the fall semester, the Daily Trojan reported last year.

Fall break is definitely a necessary recess. Prior to fall break, the months of September and October were the longest periods of full grind for students. Spring semester features a break almost every month, making it much more manageable compared to the fall. Without fall break, there would be nearly three full months of classes with no break from Labor Day in September until Thanksgiving at the end of November.

The most notable aspect of fall break, however, is that it was brought about due to student demand — and USC complied with that demand.

According to Daily Trojan archives, talks of fall break began in the academic senate beginning at least in 2009. The 2012 USG cabinet surveyed more than 900 students, finding that 90% of the student body supported the implementation of fall break. But because students rotate in and out of the University every year, the demand and advocacy died down eventually, and the break was never instituted.

If there’s one lesson to learn from the pursuit of fall break, it’s that students need to come together and advocate with persistence. This lesson can be implemented with every current student demand, whether it involves dining, mental health, student housing or anything the administration has been reluctant to acknowledge is a problem.

Nothing will get done unless students advocate for each other. That means Christian students must help Jewish and Muslim Trojans obtain food that meets their religious standards. It means men must advocate for women’s hygiene products. It means all students should listen to the concerns of underrepresented students.

While the University is owed a tip of the hat for listening to students, there is no denying that this could have happened earlier. And it more than likely would have happened earlier had the push been stronger. Yes, USG is a valuable resource for student advocacy, but it’s not enough to make change by itself.

Change requires pressure from various fronts, from students who have no stake in the game besides helping their fellow Trojans. If we’re really a Trojan Family, then we ought to look out for each other in all capacities, not just when resolutions — like fall break — affects us all.

Shauli Bar-On is a junior writing about sociopolitical issues. His column, “The Bar-On Brief,” runs every other Tuesday.

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