Memo to professors: No more work over break

Got a dictionary at hand?

Look up the word “break.” How’s it defined? You may find the following:

1) some abrupt occurrence that interrupts

2) an unexpected piece of good luck

3) a pause from doing something (as work)

Unfortunately, I won’t be focusing on the second definition. In fact, I would be focusing on the opposite-an unexpected piece of bad luck. And, coincidentally, this bad luck has everything to do with the last definition. The “break” I am referring to is “fall break” (also applicable: “winter break,” “spring break” or “summer break”).

This fall “break” was supposed to be a much-needed pause from the everyday drudgery of coursework for my girlfriend and me. We planned a quiet weekend in the Florida Keys where we could relax and forget about all the hurricanes, midterms, papers and responsibilities that had haunted the first quarter of the school year. Little did I know that my Existentialism teacher went ahead and-with three days’ notice-invited Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre to come along for the trip with us.

You see, the Tuesday before fall break commenced, my class received a writing assignment to be due the following Tuesday-one week. But, forget for a second that we got a week to complete it, or that my class had the option of doing another paper a couple weeks before. Fall break ran from Thursday afternoon until Monday morning. Peculiar. That would mean that-unless we were to use our “break” to continue doing the schoolwork we were set to have a “break” from-we were given three days to complete a four- to six-page essay.

Of course, for any of us, this wasn’t the first occurrence of “break” work (not nearly), nor will it be the last. Since childhood, educators have attempted to instill in us the idea that there are no real breaks; even in adulthood, they justify, there is no such thing as a free lunch. We must be willing to work even during our “breaks” because there is no telling when it will become imperative that a task be completed.

Well, here’s some news, apparently, to a number of culprits, er, professors out there: We take more than one class per semester. So, the next time a professor tries pulling some lame authoritative “I told you so” such as “you know, in the real world, if you turn something in late, you get fired,” let them know that in the real world you usually don’t work five or six “jobs.”

What is especially disappointing is that this is occurring in a semester constantly interrupted by hurricanes. Here we are, finally, with a few good days of weather and some free time, and the only thing I’m bronzing at the beach is my brain.

Quit hogging the sun, Sartre.

Oh…and pass the sun block, Heidegger.

Ben Minkus can be contacted at