As far as academic traditions go, Fall Break is a newcomer. A half-hearted Google search (when you only look at the first screen of 10 results) reveals only a few dozen schools with a fall break in 1970. The purpose was to give students and faculty time off from school to participate in fall elections1 2.
That was then, this is now. More colleges and universities than ever have a Fall Break, and it has nothing to do with elections. College students across the nation love Fall Break because it’s time off from school (usually two days of class), time that can be spent goofing off, catching up on studies or working. Mostly, I think it’s for goofing off.
But what about faculty? Do they work or goof off? Based on my observations from three decades of teaching collegiate classes, here is my summarization of the faculty perspective toward Fall Break.
First, some professors waste hours PO’d that several students jumped the gun and cut the professor’s classes the two days prior to the start of break. It’s a pride thing. So the students that don’t cut get rewarded with a pop quiz or something like that.
Second, some faculty have grandiose plans for grading, writing a research paper, or something work related. In reality, though, not all will follow through. Many will be afflicted with a human condition known as goofing off. It should come as no surprise that college town DVD rentals spike during Fall Break when there are no students around.
Third, yet other faculty try to out-travel adventuresome students. This year my Fall Break trip was to the Itasca State Park, near Park Rapids, Minnesota. Lake Itasca is the headwater of the Mississippi River, which flows out of the north side of the lake. Although college administrators might be tempted to call this goofing off, I insist on it being labeled as important botanical research. Given that I’m an accounting professor, it qualifies as cross-disciplinary, for which I get extra credit. This series of six photographs will document my important research findings.
In this first picture, Lake Itasca waters are in the upper left, and the first few feet of the Mississippi River are on the lower right. A trained researcher is always careful to take note of the surrounding environment.
In this second photograph I reveal important cross-disciplinary evidence of monumental importance: tree lichen on both the left (or debit) and right (or credit) side of a branch. In a soon to be submitted research paper, I test the hypothesis that lichen is both asset and liability.
In this third photograph, I show an important natural sculpture, using a tree trunk as the base material. A paper describing my discovery will be submitted to the Journal of Art Found in Nature. Because art is now added to my previous scientific-accounting research, I have achieved the golden trifecta. Generations of academics will speak of me in awe.
It isn’t a worthwhile research project if there aren’t hurdles to overcome. This fire tower has 135 steps to the top.
In my third research paper from this trip, I document the climb. So does this photograph.
Finally, no research field trip is complete without a debriefing with my research assistant.
I do feel badly that I worked on research instead of staying home and grading papers. The golden trifecta, though, removes most of the sting.
- History of the Fall Break provided by The Daily Princetonian, “Born of unrest, Fall Break legacy lives on.”
- 1969-1971 was a tumultuous time of protest against the Viet Nam war and President Nixon.