The last final period for the 2016 fall semester will take place from 6-8:30 p.m. on Dec. 20. With the sun setting around 5 p.m. during this time of the year, it is unsafe for many students leaving for break to make hours-long drives back to their hometowns in the dark and in dangerous, winter weather conditions. As a result, many students prolong their departure until peak holiday travel days—which not only puts a strain on already-stressed students, but also creates hazardous driving situations.
This issue of trying to remain safe while traveling and simultaneously needing to account for academics could be seen with the struggle that many downstate students faced over Thanksgiving break. There was a gridlock traffic advisory for all of Manhattan and its surrounding areas and bridges on Nov. 23.
For any downstate student with classes that ran past 1 p.m. on Nov. 21, leaving after class would mean driving almost completely at night. Compared to Manhattan and Long Island, many highways upstate—including I-90—are not well lit. The presence of animals such as deer on the roads also plays a role in endangering late-night drivers.
I think it is unfair for students to feel the need to choose between a safer, traffic-free ride home and attending crucial final classes before a break.
Instead of taking the available College Express bus, biology major senior Jessica Sammon makes the drive back home because she wants to have her car over break.
“The drive can be really difficult,” she said. “With traffic, it usually takes over seven hours to get to Oceanside [Long Island], and traveling right before the holidays doesn’t help.”
In order to maximize their safety and ease while traveling, some students choose to miss class in order to drive home during daylight. Besides the fact that students might be missing vital class material that is taught on the days before breaks, these students may also miss out on extra credit that may be offered to students for attending the last classes.
“[A professor] offered extra credit to the students who came to the class before spring break,” business administration major senior Shannon Colligan said. “I live in Buffalo, so it wasn’t as big a deal for me, but it would have been a problem if I lived downstate.”
In a study done by Geneseo in 2010, 18 percent of the student body was from Long Island and 7 percent was from New York City. With an estimated one in four students residing in Manhattan or on Long Island in 2010, Geneseo likely still has a high percentage of students who drive five or more hours to get home.
Geneseo professors may want to reward the students who attend the classes that are so tempting to skip, but it gives an unfair advantage to those students who do not have the luxury of living close. While it was the student’s choice to attend college miles away from home, Geneseo should be more accommodating in ensuring the safety of such a significant portion of their student body.
Geneseo should strive to encourage teachers to not place exams on days before breaks. If teachers want to offer extra credit to the students who do attend classes on days leading up to breaks, there should be an alternative provided to those students who choose to get a jump start on the drive home. Making the decision to drive during off-peak times to cut down hours on the road should be understood, and Geneseo should consider starting our school year earlier so our winter break is not so close to the holidays.
It is interesting to consider how Geneseo attracts so many students from downstate and yet they are the students who struggle the most when it comes to traveling home for holidays. Geneseo students from downstate should not have to sacrifice time with their families in order to avoid dangerous traveling experiences or in fear of academic ramifications.