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Students Rush to Complete Work Before Spring Break

By Harsha Wasalathanthri

The weather begins to change, growing warmer, one hopes. The Daylight Savings time change results in longer evenings, tempting students to spend more time outdoors rather than in a library. However, as usual, the week before spring break is marked by a sudden increase of studious activity among MIT students. Projects, problem sets, mid-term examinations all keep undergraduates and graduate students alike extra busy until the very last day before the short holiday.

When asked if MIT medical has noticed any trends in stress breakout among students before spring break, Clinical Director for Campus Life Maryanne Kirkbride said, “We see very few students the week before Spring Break. They’re probably too busy.”

Why are we all so busy? Senior Associate Dean for Students Robert M. Randolph said that faculty probably wishes to cover as much of the course material before spring break in recognition of the longer days and warmer evenings that come with the second half of the semester.

“In addition is the salient point that only six weeks of the semester remain after spring break, and professors know that they don’t have much time left to give out assignments,” Randolph concluded.

Meanwhile, students look forward to the coming short holiday. Many of them will be traveling back home to their families. Plans range from meeting up with old high school friends who are also on spring break to just relaxing, going to the beach and getting a tan, hanging out at a favorite hometown coffee shop, or finally finding time for favorite hobbies.

Adam C. Madlinger ’07 said, “I’m going to spend a lot of time in the machine shop at home working on my steam locomotive.”

Benjamin T. Switala ’09 plans to “sleep, chill out and if possible get some 6.001 done.”

In an e-mail, Subodh Paudel ’06 of Pi Lambda Phi said that he and eleven of his fellow fraternity members are going to Las Vegas for four days. “There will be gambling and there will be drinking. Other than that, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

For many seniors, however, spring break will be for serious business. Dilan Jayawardane ’06 said, “I’ll be flying to Seattle for an interview and when I get back, I’ll start studying again.”

Some students have decided to spend their free time doing community service in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Partially funded by the MIT Public Services Center, about 70 MIT students will travel to the Gulf region to aid in the relief efforts, focusing particularly on debris reclamation, according to a PSC report. These student groups will be lead by Chaplain John Wuestneck, Anna L. Schlesinger ’08, Chaim Kutnicki ’07, Rachel Shiffrin, and Danny Park, and will be collaborating with client non-profit and governmental organizations in New Orleans.

Kutnicki said he was participating with eight other students through MIT Hillel, which is partly funding the trip. The group will be in the South for a week, doing roofing, debris removal, and mostly outside physical labor. At night, they plan to go to New Orleans to look around, and hold discussion groups to discuss recent events and there purpose in the area. Kutnicki said they would be staying in tents and have no access to running water or electricity.

Karl Seidman, a senior lecturer in the department of urban studies and planning, wrote in the PSC report, “The projects will be conducted in conjunction with an Economic Development Policy and Planning Course at the University of New Orleans, which will be addressing the economic development issues associated with the current city framework for rebuilding neighborhoods in New Orleans.”

Working alongside Harvard students, 10 other MIT students hope to build houses in New Orleans for Habitat for Humanity.

Sally Susnowitz, assistant dean and director of the PSC, said that besides providing partial funding for travel in terms of grants and fellowships, the PSC will also be providing guidance and support for these student groups. A grant of $34,000 by The Coop has been of helpful, she said.

Since the Hurricane Katrina relief activity has been of key importance, the center has created a special April 12 deadline for PSC Summer Fellowships for Hurricane Katrina Relief projects, said Susnowitz. This will encourage students traveling to work in the Gulf Region over spring break to bring back project ideas and to apply for summer fellowships to carry them out, the report states. “They should be conscious of all the good that they are doing and give themselves due credit,” she said.