We are enjoying our first “Reading Day” at RIT now that we’ve transitioned to semesters. This is a single day without classes or exams before finals week begins on Friday the 13th. Right now, at 9:44 a.m., out my window I see students trudging to the library, perhaps to study. The building I’m in is pretty empty and very quiet.
At many colleges and universities in the U.S., reading days bleed into a longer period of stress prior to exams, variously known as “Hell week” or “Dead week.” Rather than sleep, students cram for finals, write papers, complete projects, and most likely down quarts of energy drinks or other stimulants. They also get a little weird.
My own reading this morning is on Wikipedia’s “Dead week” page, where I’ve learned what goes on during this time all over the country. For instance:
- Students on many campuses participate in primal screaming to relieve stress. At Columbia, this takes place at midnight when they open windows and howl. Carnegie Mellon adds a barbecue to the yelling.
- Getting naked seems an important element at some schools. For example, at Brown students charge nude through libraries handing out doughnuts. At Penn State they run through town.
- Longwood University kicks off finals week with a midnight breakfast served by faculty and administrators.
- At Purdue—no kidding—they have a week of quiet.
The University of Colorado at Boulder got rid of reading days after they realized students weren’t studying after all but partying. Maybe they had caught wind of what goes on at Pacific Lutheran University, which notwithstanding the church connection, drops all pretense and calls dead week “Drinking Time.”