Revamping reading day

Marquis Hall open for academic assistance Monday

With final exams approaching, there is only a brief period to collect notes, unwind, and cram for some students. Reading day, the only day a year between the end of classes and the start of finals devoted specifically to studying, has new programming this year directed at first-year students.

This coming Monday, Marquis dining hall will be open from noon until midnight as an additional location where students can do work, receive tutoring and de-stress, according to Dean of Advising & Co-Curricular Programs Erica D’Agostino.

As part of the Connected Communities initiative, the event is designed to provide support to first-years before their first finals weeks at college.

“It’s a way to bring the first-year community together over what’s normally a very stressful period of time,” D’Agostino said. “My hope with this is that students in similar classes come together in a single location and do some group work and talk with each other about what they think is important to know.”

“There will be academic support in the afternoon, for two and a half-to-three hours for the courses that are most heavily-populated by first-year students,” D’Agostino said.

The event is open without RSVP, and is completely volunteer-run. Resources available to these students will include “a mixture of faculty, students tutors, WAs [Writing Associates], people from Calculus Calvary,” D’Agostino said. There will be anywhere from 15 to 25 helpers, including people from ATTIC,The Academic Tutoring and Training Information Center.

The highlight of the event, according to D’Agostino, will be the snacks, catered by Bon Appetit, which go throughout the day and into the evening.

“There’s a great hot chocolate bar with peppermint sticks and marshmallows,” D’Agostino said. “It’s kind of a de-stressing initiative.”

“I think there will [also] be massage therapists on hand giving quick massages,” D’Agostino added.

While this particular programming is new for reading day, reading day is not new for Lafayette. According to Director for Special Collections & College Archives Diane Shaw, reading day has been a long withstanding tradition at Lafayette, though it has not always been called such.

“It looks like there was often a full weekend or even more between the end of classes and the start of exams,” Shaw wrote in an email. “[but] the first use of the term seems to be in the early 1990s.”

Since then, reading day has been assigned only one day a year, in the fall semester.

The reason there is no reading day in the spring semester is scheduling conflicts, said Registrar Frank Benginia. In accordance to Lafayette’s traditions, the semester must be fourteen weeks long, there must be a three week interim in the new year, and there must be seven days of exams starting on a Monday.

Additionally, standard protocol for graduation takes a while.

“The Board of Trustees and faculty have to approve graduates. Grades are due Tuesday, the Academic Progress Committee meets that Wednesday, the Trustees meet Thursday, and the Board usually meets on Friday before a Saturday graduation,” Benginia said. “We need Tuesday and Wednesday to clear them to graduate.”

In order for there to be a spring reading day, either graduation would have to be postponed or exams would have to begin on a Sunday, Benginia said. For at least the past eighteen years, graduation has always taken place on a Saturday and it has been a longstanding practice for exams to begin on a weekday, leaving Sunday open.

For first year students, reading day is more necessary in the fall than in the spring, D’Agostino said. “It’s the first go-around with taking finals, and that could be the most stressful finals period of your career because you don’t know what to expect. This is perfect for the fall.”

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