Throwback: Attitudes toward dead days have not changed much in the past 40 years

Brett Donohoe

Students will have Monday and Tuesday of this coming week completely free of classes to prepare for finals, affectionately called “dead days.” But the University once dedicated a whole week for this endeavor, doing away with it in 1963, following a faculty vote on the topic. 

In a Daily Texan article published Oct. 24, 1963, students expressed their frustrations on the change to the schedule of finals.

“I think it’s crummy,” senior Bob Hopson said. “The only time I ever study for finals is during dead week. This will probably make me fail.” 

The majority of the students joined Hopson in their distaste for the change. But the decision was based solely upon faculty opinion, and most faculty members were in favor of the “abolition” of dead week.

Some students, though, supported the shortening of dead week to three days. 

“Dead week was not effective, and I agree with the three-day reading period,” senior Ronald Edward Sheppard said. “The teachers didn’t really live up to [dead week].”

The main issue raised against dead week was the lack of actual studying done. Junior Susan McGinness refuted this claim. 

“I think a lot of the playing done during dead week is done at night after a hard day of studying,” McGinness said.

But most faculty members disagreed with McGinness on this premise. 

“Students haven’t taken advantage of dead week, so it won’t make any difference,” marketing administration associate professor Robert M. Taylor said.

Students would sometimes recognize they did not take full advantage of dead week, but that did not convince them it needed to be shortened. 

“I know I sometimes don’t use it to the fullest extent, but I do use it,” junior William Gross said. “I study more than one or two days out of the week.” 

At the same time, other students realized that dead week was, more or less, ineffective. 

“Dead week didn’t accomplish too much,” senior David Ross said. 

Attitudes similar to Ross’s are what prompted the faculty to abolish the week in favor of only a few days devoted to preparation.

The loss of studying time created many complaints, and several students voiced concern over the extended length of the semester. 

“I don’t like the idea of abolition of dead week because, at least that way, students don’t worry about having to prepare for class,” engineering senior Ralph Knebel said. 

This change to dead week came amid another schedule change in the spring semester schedule — the loss of a week of spring vacation — which only added to the frustration felt among students. 

“One or two days is a poor substitute, especially since they take away spring vacation, which to me is the only break in the spring,” Ross said.

Regardless of the fact that students have fewer days to prepare for finals than what was proposed in the voted change initiated in 1963, many students today still see this short interval between classes and finals as a personal vacation.  

“I only have a few finals, so dead days are days for me to relax,” chemistry junior Ted Deng said. 

Despite 40 years passing since the abolition of dead week, not much has changed with regard to students’ approaches to the days before finals.