Over 800 students sign petition demanding longer winter break next year

February 26, 2024

Design by Deborah Han

More than 800 students and 14 student organizations have signed a petition to lengthen the 2024-2025 winter break. Currently, the break is scheduled to be just 17 days, a week shorter than the 2023-2024 break, according to the University Registrar. The petition describes the impacts of a shorter break on international students, student mental health, and the celebration of religious traditions, among other considerations.

Toluwani Baoku (CAS ’27), who created the petition, learned of the change when she was planning for a trip to Nigeria to see family next year. 

“I wasn’t gonna sit around, let that happen to all of us. It really isn’t fair,” Baoku said. 

The academic calendars are planned by faculty, deans, and administration, with the final schedule being approved by the Main Campus Executive Faculty. The university has said that they will not modify the 2024-2025 calendar.  

“The 2024-25 winter break schedule was discussed extensively by the Council of Associate Deans, and the Office of the University Registrar researched possible alternatives during the Council’s deliberation,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email to the Voice

Baoku initially listed several reasons why she believes the break should be longer in her petition, but kept adding to them as friends and supporters gave her suggestions. One of the Baoku’s most significant qualms is the implications a shorter break has for students that travel internationally on their breaks — many of whom are international students. 

International students, and other students who live far from campus, are often unable to travel home over the shorter breaks, making winter break a unique opportunity to see loved ones. They also have prolonged traveling times — students can fly as long as 20 hours — and higher flight costs that could be exacerbated by leaving campus closer to Christmas. Next year’s break begins on Dec. 22. 

“There is a small minority of international students who are obviously here on maybe some financial aid or who are either from an FGLI [First-Generation Low-Income] household. That’s a big struggle for them, especially when there is no support to book flights back home,” Ewan Wilson (SFS ’25), president of the International Student Association (ISA), said. ISA is one of the organizations that signed its support for the petition. 

Wilson is a part of the Georgetown Scholars Program, which supports first generation and low-income students to create a more equitable college experience. He received funding for his flight home as a freshman, but his financial aid hasn’t entirely covered his flights in the years since. 

“After that you’re funding your flights yourself, which your financial aid is supposed to cover. But in my experience, it really hasn’t,” Wilson said. “Around Christmas time, I mean, I’ve never even dared to look how much that is.”

Wilson is hopeful that student support around the petition will lead the university to reconsider their winter break plan. 

“I think what we want to hope to achieve is really rally the international student body behind this and see if we can get other departments in with the aim of possibly making the break either go back to normal, or in the very worst case scenario, if they really do want us to stay that late, considering extending it through into January,” Wilson said.  

Break beginning in late December may also impact some students’ ability to celebrate cultural and religious traditions. The petition notes that Orthodox Christians typically celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, the day before classes are set to begin. 

“Georgetown has one of the only Orthodox Christian school-run ministries in the country and because of this they attract many Orthodox Christian students. By having classes start on the 8th of January next school year, Orthodox Christian students at Georgetown will have a difficult time celebrating with their families,” the petition reads. 

For those who begin celebrating Christmas on Dec. 24, a practice common in countries such as Spain, there is limited time to fly back after the conclusion of finals.

“If there’s any delays or anything like that, you’re kind of restricting that time to come together as a family and do everything that you want to do,” Wilson said.  

The petition also notes that Georgetown’s winter break is shorter than that of peer institutions, citing George Washington University and American University as examples. The two universities have a 26 and 29 day winter break, respectively, for the 2024-2025 academic year. 

The petition also mentions that many students feel burnout as a result of the unattainable standards Georgetown can cultivate. This makes a longer break important in allowing students to recover from the stress of school. 

Baoku said that the Georgetown community has been receptive to the petition.

She plans on emailing the University Registrar the petition once it reaches 1000 signatures and potentially presenting it to the Academic Council or the Georgetown University Student Association if the university responds negatively. 

However, it appears that the university won’t budge on the dates. “While the university is unable to make changes to the 2024-2025 calendar, we will consider student feedback when creating future calendars,” a university spokesperson wrote to the Voice

In a later email to the Voice, Baoku acknowledged this decision.

“I’m disappointed that the university can’t make changes to next year’s calendar, even though they said they would consider the student feedback in the future,” Baoku wrote. 

The winter break for the 2025-2026 academic year is also listed to be 17 days, though it will begin one day earlier, on Dec. 21. 

“To tell the truth, I don’t trust the administration to listen to what the students truly want,” Baoku wrote. “It feels like they don’t look at the bigger picture when they make big decisions like this one.”

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