As students start to salivate over Thanksgiving dinner and, more importantly, the chance to spend the holiday with their families, the cost of traveling home may leave some feeling sick. Roundtrip airfare this time of year can be exorbitant, and some courses’ uncompromising attendance policies leave families that face this financial burden feeling anything but grateful.

About 2.4 million Americans are expected to be flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving, making it the busiest travel day of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. Plane tickets are subsequently much more expensive than usual, even for those who book seats months in advance. A USA Today report noted that a ticket for a flight on the Sunday after Thanksgiving costs an average of 20 percent more than the same ticket on Monday. For students flying coast to coast, that can add up to hundreds of dollars round trip.

The university should recognize this challenge and do what is necessary to accommodate students who are facing it. Instead, classes resume on Monday, Nov. 26, forcing students to decide between purchasing a more expensive plane ticket, not going home for the holiday or returning late and missing class. Unfortunately, many courses penalize unexcused absences, and even those that provide a handful of unexcused absences per semester can put those who travel great distances at an unfair disadvantage.

The proper solution is to continue having class on Monday but mandate that courses designate the day liberal leave, meaning that students would have the option of missing class without facing consequences for their grades. Those who are back in the District on time are not deprived extra class time, professors are not required to compress their curriculum into fewer days and students with long flights are not forced to shoulder avoidable expenses.

Many colleges resume classes the Monday after Thanksgiving, but Georgetown is in somewhat of a unique situation. It is a national university, and it often touts the fact that its student body hails from all 50 states. California, a six-hour flight from the District, is the second-most represented state on the Hilltop. It would be unreasonable to mandate a university-wide policy to accommodate a small number of students, but that is clearly not the case here. Instead, penalizing Monday absence puts extra pressure on many students who are faced with long flights and sensitive family finances.

It’s also wrong to ask these students to travel back to Georgetown on Saturday, which would give them about as much time on an airplane over the course of the break as with their families, or to leave the decision to excuse an absence to professor discretion, which puts faculty members in the awkward position of making case-by-case calls that can be arbitrary and time consuming. Sure, some students might exploit the liberal leave and use it simply as another day off when they lack legitimate reason to do so, but that should not outweigh the needs of those who have a genuine reason for missing class.

The absence policy for Thanksgiving break is undoubtedly a give and take, but establishing a protocol that takes into account the financial considerations of students is something for which we would all be thankful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *