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Monday, Dec 11, 2023

J-term: Not Just Play-term

With J-Term more than halfway over, many of us have accomplished a great deal: we have plowed through new Netflix series (Making a Murderer, anyone?!), spent afternoons at the Snow Bowl and caught up on much-needed sleep. But while many enjoy this brief respite from the busyness of the spring and fall, we feel that it is important to acknowledge that J-term comes at a cost: more compressed semesters, more incidences of binge drinking and an often tangible sense of winter gloom. For some, J-term’s lack of structure can result in feelings of listlessness, loneliness and depression. We at The Campus believe J-term demands a new approach. We encourage students, faculty and the administration alike to approach J-Term with a sense of intentionality and purpose.

It is time to retire the now antiquated idea of J-term as solely a ski term, designed for those who have access to the resources skiing and snowboarding require. Equally outdated is the idea that J-term is a time solely for partying and excessive drinking. We should stop measuring the value of a class by how few times it meets and how light the workload is.

We can re-envision J-term with a new sense of purpose, one that dives wholeheartedly into however we picture an ideal semester, be it sledding with friends, delving into an engaging class or taking time to read more books. J-term is a chance to pursue an internship, immerse oneself in a language, volunteer or work on applications, endeavors that don’t always get our fullest attention when there are four classes to be thinking about. What matters is not productivity, but intentionality, a sense of purpose that may manifest itself simply in spending the time enjoying things that we do not necessarily have time for in the regular semester. As Middlebury students, we can use J-term to learn to take better care of ourselves while in college and exert more independent authority over what we choose to value in our time here.

This redefined intentionality should extend to the types of courses offered during Winter Term. Already some students are offered the opportunity to take MiddCORE, or classes with field trips to the Vermont State House or to museums and churches near and far. But we would love to see every class making use of the time available to include content that breaks free from the standard lecture, reading and discussion routine with which Middlebury students are so familiar. This can be accomplished without overburdening students with work outside of class and prioritizes the goal of different, not necessarily more, that can make J-term so powerful.

Unfortunately, some of the activities for which J-term is known (and loved) are prohibitively expensive for some. In the spirit of encouraging exploration, we would like to see the College lower the costs of J-Term workshops, and a make skiing at Rikert and the Snow Bowl more affordable to students on financial aid.

In addition to academics and outdoor activities, perhaps the most valuable part of J-term is the time it allows us to become better acquainted with ourselves and the roles we play in this community. This means finding time to take care of ourselves and tending to our relationships with others - priorities that are too often neglected during hectic semesters. Sending the message of self-care, exploration and engagement is important and one that can be backed with a financial change that shows students the value of taking full advantage of all the programming Middlebury has to offer.

J-term can be a chance to relax, catch up on Netflix and have days where we get nothing done. But let us choose to relax with intention. And if we choose not to relax, let us fully utilize the opportunities for creativity and spontaneity that J-term offers. We can look at our classes differently and rethink how we engage with the material we explore. We can choose the classes that truly intrigue us, rather than the ones that meet the least frequently. And if we do use our J-term with intention, we can return in the spring ready to take on whatever a full semester has in store.