minutia press.
Fall Break

Not all traditions are good, and not all traditions are worth continuing.

There was a tradition in our department of using Fall Break (a one-day stay from classes) to hold "Faculty Research Day". On that day, most of the faculty would give a 20-30 minute talk about their research. Students would listen (or pretend to); faculty would be enthusiastic about their research (or pretend to); lunch was served (this part was always real).

Last year I was in charge of the event, and I condensed the activity to a half-day, so that we ate lunch and then had the rest of the day off. I saw this as a good first step, but it ddn't go far enough.

So this year, although I wasn't in charge, I suggested in a faculty meeting that we go further than we had gone before, and reduce the day from 1/2 to 0. It was one of those moments in a faculty meeting where it seemed as if somebody (me in this case) had passed gas.

After a moment or two of silent meditation on my suggestion, our chair asked if anybody really wanted to give a talk on that day. Nobody volunteered, and so we have restored the idea of Fall Break to faculty now as well as to students.

Don't get me wrong(ly): I'm as eager as the next professor to talk about my work. I think a good time to do this is right before the semester starts, so that new students can find out what we do when we're not yapping in class. But I also think that we deserve a break too, and I'm gratified that others feel the same way.

Here's to you, Fall Break. You are short, but oh so well deserved.