While many schools take the first Monday of September off in honor of Labor Day, Eckerd students will still be attending classes, despite the closure of many campus services such as the mailroom and the health center.
It can be argued learning is hardly “labor,” because it is with great privilege that students are able to attend college at all. However, because Labor Day was created in recognition of Americans’ hard work and achievements, it seems heedless to require professors and staff to work on Labor Day.
According to Forbes, many states are exploring the possibility of making schools’ start post-Labor Day a requirement by law because states with schools starting before Labor Day lose millions of dollars in seasonal labor benefits and tax dollars derived from tourism.
Given Florida is an especially tourist-dense location with around 126.1 million out-of-state visitors annually (the most tourists of any U.S. state,) Florida schools starting before Labor Day is not only a disadvantage for students, teachers and professors, but it is also an economic drawback.
Eckerd typically starts the week of Labor Day, so not only would having Labor Day off give students a chance to finish out their summer jobs, it would also give professors more time to adjust to the new semester by adjusting their schedules and syllabi accordingly.
Dean James Annarelli, vice president for Student Life, explained that Eckerd has class on Labor Day because of the school’s Fall Semester schedule.
“Working on Labor Day has been a long standing practice here because of the way in which the fall semester is structured. It’s to end the semester prior to the holidays without bringing students and their families into holiday blackout periods that would make return for the holidays very costly. . . Back in the early 2000s when President Eastman first came to the school, we tried to make it so we didn’t work on Labor Day for about 2 years, but found that it did not work well in the semester.”
Senior Koen Varley expressed a desire for Eckerd to recognize the history of Labor Day and the implications behind holding class on this holiday.
"Eckerd clearly doesn't care about labor or the hard-won victories of workers in the past who secured a 40-hour work week after decades of struggle,” Varley said. “Eckerd should rethink its position on glossing over Labor Day."
But, not all members of the Eckerd Community mind working on Labor Day.
“It has never bothered me to teach on that day … I’m pretty indifferent to the whole thing,” Antonio Melchor, assistant professor of Italian, said.
Assistant Vice President of Operations Adam Colby also reflects on past years in which Labor Day is the start of the normal semester.
“It is a little different this year ... normally Labor Day is when we’ve ended Autumn term and we start the regular year. So honestly, we typically would end up somewhat working with students moving in and stuff,” Colby said.
Additionally, as stated in the Official Faculty Holiday Calendar, the college will recognize 16 paid holidays annually for full-time faculty and staff, as well as two personal days.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that most professional employees have an average of 8.5 paid holidays per year, which is significantly less than Eckerd employees receive. It is possible that having classes on holidays such as Labor Day contribute to these benefits, as well as the school’s extended winter vacation.
While some professors do not mind teaching on Labor Day, there is still the possibility that with more high schools and colleges moving toward an earlier start date in August, it will be increasingly harder for teenagers to complete summer jobs, a decrease in tourist-generated state income and a greater presence of the “summer slide,” a term for students to have a harder time focusing in school during the summer months, as Erb stated in her Forbes article.
This year, Eckerd’s academic calendar looks more different than ever with many students not even back on campus yet. But the only consistency seems to be the long-standing tradition of working and learning on Labor Day.