Purdue’s first Reading Day of the spring semester on Wednesday was the first official break for Purdue students since classes started in January. Some students say they were concerned their instructors might hold class or require assignments to be turned in despite the intended break.
Alex Green, a freshman in first-year engineering, said one of his PHYS 172 assignments was changed from being due at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to being due at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
“That seems pretty deliberate to me,” Green said in a Twitter direct message, though he said he couldn’t say for sure whether the change was made specifically to comply with the Reading Day.
The assignment was a 12-question homework assignment. Jack Bay, a freshman in first-year engineering, said he didn’t notice that the assignment due date was changed until Wednesday. Bay said he reported the PHYS 172 faculty to Purdue Student Government and to the Office of the Dean of Students.
“I honestly didn’t notice that it was due at 12:01 AM until today, and that’s why I decided to take action on this,” Bay said. “I was under the impression that it was due tomorrow (actually tomorrow, not the first minute of tomorrow), so I hadn’t looked at it that deeply. Every other homework assignment has been due at 11:59 PM and I had no reason to think this one would be any different.”
The Exponent reached out to PHYS 172 professors for comment, but did not receive a response as of Wednesday evening.
Other students in PHYS 172 raised similar concerns about the changed due date for the homework assignment. One student asked in a Piazza forum Wednesday night if the Thursday morning due date was correct, saying that some students were experiencing a “rise in stress” over the assignment.
A professor replied that Purdue’s official Reading Day policy doesn’t govern homework assignments. “Expecting students to work on their homework is very much in keeping with the spirit of Reading Day,” the instructor wrote.
Another student questioned the deadline move and said the change “will make people very suspicious and very annoyed.”
“It is pushed back to avoid the kind of frivolous complaints that you seem to be making and arguing about a technicality,” the professor replied. “Just a suggestion, but I think your time might be better served in mastering the course material rather than engaging in this pointless discussion with me online.”
Around 10 p.m. the professor pushed back the deadline to Thursday night, to the chagrin of one student who said many had likely completed the assignment in anticipation of the original due date.
Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty emphasized that the Reading Day itself was a “part of the official academic calendar for Spring 2021,” unlike the unofficial Reading Day in Fall 2020, where professors had the option to participate.
“We expect all instructors to follow the previously issued Reading Day guidelines,” Doty said. “Any student who has concerns should first attempt to address the issue with their instructor. If unsuccessful, students should reach out to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities in the Dean of Students Office. So many things are new, and the issue is typically a misunderstanding.”
An unofficial reporting mechanism for courses that do not comply with Reading Day guidelines was established by Purdue Student Government. A recent newsletter from PSG encouraged students to reach out to email@example.com or use the Office of the Dean of Students reporting system to make note of any course or professor that does not recognize the official Reading Days.
Cynthia Harwood, a senior lecturer for general chemistry, and her colleagues chose to open their regularly assigned Wednesday quiz on Monday this week to give students extra time while maintaining its usual due date.
This was to allow students to get their work done before the Reading Day if they chose to, Harwood said, while not disrupting their normal quiz schedule.
“We are encouraging them to take this Wednesday off to rest and mentally recoup,” Harwood said. “In addition, this quiz will give students full points for telling us how they are planning on spending their Reading Day on Wednesday.”
English professor Angelica Duran also said that downtime is important for students to mentally recalibrate. She said that while the unofficial Reading Day in Fall 2020 was a late addition to last semester’s schedule, she felt it was important to include.
“We all had to be all-hands-on-deck while everything was new last semester, so I loved that the administration listened to the student suggestion that we even do Reading Days,” Duran said. “Last semester we had obviously already planned out our syllabi to not include Reading Days. This semester since the faculty knew well ahead of time, it’s in my calendar that we’re not meeting those days.”
Duran’s calendar initially had a discussion post due on the Reading Day, but she moved it back in accordance with Purdue policy to facilitate the break.
“I am a big proponent for students in my professional career to really try to just take a break,” Duran said. “I have no quizzes, no anything due that day. I as an undergraduate student really benefited from having some downtime and time to really recoup, I feel like I did better work because of it.”
Some students, like Emilee Sarn, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences, used the day to study for exams and write a paper.
“(The Reading Day) has benefited my week in that I have more time to do stuff and work on things that are due later in the week,” Sarn said.
Bella Montefalco and Emily Mattingly, freshmen in the College of Science, spent part of the day in Honors College and Residences North catching up with friends.
“All of my professors have moved my work back,” Mattingly said. “It’s given me a nice break because I didn’t have lab this week (for CHEM 255) so it’s been a nice week for me.”
Montefalco’s professors also moved back her work, allowing her to spend her time during the Reading Day doing activities that she enjoyed.
“I’ve been studying, I went to work out and now I’m drinking coffee with my friends,” Montefalco said. “Being given a break by my professors has been great.”
A Twitter poll conducted by The Exponent of more than 265 people showed that 25.5% of respondents had no classes at all on the Reading Day, 22.1% had no classes but reported having homework due and 3.4% reported they did have class, as of Wednesday evening.
Purdue hosted some Reading Day events for students, with the Healthy Boiler Program putting on the “Perfecting Your No-Guilt No” virtual workshop from noon to 1 p.m. The program included tips for time and stress management and “supports the behavioral health and work-life integration pillars of the Healthy Boiler Program,” Purdue Student Government said in an email sent Wednesday.