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My annual Thanksgiving shuttle rant

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. And once again, I’m hearing from my students that I’m taking the College shuttle Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. [1] , so I won’t be in your class on Wednesday afternoon.

I’m old. When I was a student, we still had classes on the day after Thanksgiving [2]. So students ate Thanksgiving on campus or at a friend’s house who lived nearby. No one thought of traveling home. But I don’t object to students going home. I certainly prefer to have my own children home for Thanksgiving. But I don’t like the current situation at Grinnell.

We offer classes on Wednesday. That means that students should plan to be in their afternoon classes. However, the only shuttles FM offers are at 12:30 p.m. I understand that FM chooses shuttle times to meet student demand and that many students don’t have afternoon classes. However, offering shuttles to the airport and to Chicago only at 12:30 p.m. sends a message that our afternoon classes are not important. And, while some folks at Grinnell might understand that it’s just FM, I don’t think students and their parents understand the distinction.

We need to revisit the shuttle schedule or the class schedule.

I’d suggest one of the following.

  1. Accept that students want to travel home for Thanksgiving and stop holding classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. To avoid moving the 12:30 problem back a day, we would have to ensure that FM doesn’t offer Tuesday 12:30 shuttles. I would suggest Tuesday 4:30 p.m. and Wednesday 8:00 a.m. shuttles. I think an extra day of travel time will help our students, particularly those who drive.

  2. Add 4:30 p.m. shuttles on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

  3. Move fall break to Thanksgiving week. That strategy might simplify a lot of things, but it would make fall break very late.

  4. Something that’s beyond my current range of imagination.

I know of some colleagues that give high-stakes quizzes or examinations in their Wednesday 3 p.m. classes. I don’t think that’s the solution. I’d much rather help students get home (options 1 and 3), and acknowledge that some of them will need to miss class in any case [3]. But we should not be sending a message that afternoon classes are unimportant.

[1] For those who care, information on shuttles is available at and the signup form which lists the particular times is at If you look, you’ll see that there are two shuttles on Wednesday, one to the Des Moines airport and one to Chicago. Both are at 12:30 p.m.

[2] We, in this case, is The University of Chicago.

[3] Sometimes it takes a long time to get home. Sometimes there are other family events on Wednesday night. Sometimes it’s that it’s much cheaper to leave earlier in the day.

Version 1.0 of 2017-11-13.