JanPlan is a Broken System
JanPlan is a broken system.
As stated on colby.edu:
"Colby's JanPlan, officially "the January Program," was introduced in 1961-62 to allow students to pursue focused course work, independent study, or internships during an intensive four-week term... JanPlan offers opportunities for students to experiment outside of their major or to tackle some special challenge or focused research within their major."
I woke up at 7:21 a.m. on Monday, January 4 with all of the eagerness of one's first day of school. Within an hour, I was starting a nice breakfast at Dana--yogurt and orange juice over the New England edition of The New York Times.
Without warning, at 8:58 a.m., tragedy struck: I had to learn. I trudged off to my JanPlan class, GM 252, Multiculturalism in German Film and Literature. I did not know much about Germans beyond what a bitter old Russian high school friend told me, so I resolved to approach the class with an open mind. I had two goals: to fulfill my literature requirement and to give myself a sense of purpose during the brutally cold month. I strategically took the class with three of my friends in order to divide my attention. I spent two hours engaging in conversation with twenty others about authors and directors that I had never encountered before.
At 11:00 a.m., I left class for lunch.
At 11:30 a.m., I coincidentally played a German board game with friends.
By 3:00 p.m., I was fast asleep.
At 7:00 p.m., I was roused from my slumber by my roommate coming back from swim team practice. I woke up hungry and finished the pizza in my refrigerator. When my roommate pressed me as to what I had done during my so-heavily-anticipated day, I repeated the above. When he asked me the content of my German class, I drew a blank. I then solicited a neighbor to play Xbox until I fell asleep again around midnight.
That daily cycle repeated itself four times a week (Monday-Thursday) for four weeks. The weekends were unique in that I went to bed later and woke up later.
That was how I pursued "focused course work" and tackled a "special challenge." It was also the main reason I avoided talking to my parents over January, out of shame. During JanPlan, leisure is ubiquitous. There is no good way to explain a month-long binge of sloth on their dime, and no good reason either. When I spoke to fellow students about the situation, they all had similar experiences on campus, generally including more skiing. The exceptions were athlete friends who often had two practices a day along with class and friends who spent JanPlan off campus. As an interesting aside, I?also inaugurated the month with the goal of being able to play serviceable athletic pick-up squash. A month later, my Prince racket still hangs unused from my bed.
The worst part of my monastic immersion in indolence was that for vast stretches of the day, there literally was no superior or more productive option available to me. With campus in quasi-shutdown mode, most of my conventional outlets for creativity or intellectual curiosity were closed.
So why is the JanPlan experience considered constructive by the College? Setting all naïve ideals of intense scholarship aside, the concept of taking one class for a month is absurd. People need things to do. Currently, we spend two semesters a year doing things that are geared toward academic scholarship. During these semesters, the entire student body (except for those juniors who are abroad) is here. Professors are here every day and are around for most of the day. All of the dining halls are open. All of the libraries are open, and for extended periods of time. During JanPlan, each of those aspects of college life is diminished. Many students are gone, Foss closes, most professors teach no classes and those that do are often less than thrilled about it. The product is a month on campus that is clearly subordinate to, and of lesser quality than the other eight months. This mentality can often affect how we treat our one course. Invariably, that one course could be perceived as easier than a conventional one, and professors often hold up their end of their bargain by not having the same standards of grading. The preponderance of free time often leads to more time for leisure activities that at best are not relevant to learning and at worst run counter to it.
JanPlan is a major problem. The three best solutions to that problem are pushing up the start of the spring semester, extending winter break, or somehow mixing the two. If college is the best time of our lives, why spend a month of it in quasi-retirement?