ATHENS, Ga. - In recent weeks, University of Georgia students have characterized professor David Williams as an "idiot," a party pooper and a recluse who can't grasp the importance of student night life. The scorn being heaped on the religion professor stems from his suggestion that the school stop planning its fall break around the annual Georgia-Florida bash in Jacksonville.
Mr. Williams and other faculty leaders want to move the fall hiatus, which releases students from two days of class before "The World's Largest Cocktail Party," because they say it's an embarrassing endorsement of partying over academics, a cop-out in the struggle to emphasize books over football-related binge drinking.
Moving the break, they say, would help solidify university's new 20th place among public universities in U.S. News and World Report rankings.
"It'd be nice to stay there," said Mr. Williams, the chairman of the university's educational affairs committee, which drafted the proposal. "This was only partially about drinking."
Students are gearing up to fight for their right to blow town early.
"Rather than worrying about solving a PR issue, it's much more important to focus on a problem on campus that directly affects students," such as students who lose their parking spots to alumni donors each football weekend in Athens, said Lisa Timmons, a junior and Student Government Association vice presidential candidate.
The University Council first approved the break for fall 2000, conceding that the Friday before the Georgia-Florida football weekend was already a customary skip day for undergraduates, eager to pile into cars and head south to the game. On Feb. 22, the council will consider a measure from Mr. Williams and his committee that would move the two-day break to the Thanksgiving holiday - creating a weeklong break - or shift it from late October to mid-October, providing an academic breather to students near the middle of the semester.
Easing the students' journey to the bars of the Sunshine State "should be completely immaterial" to scheduling considerations, said David Newman, a forestry professor and a member of the University Council's executive committee. It has forwarded the measure to the full council.
Mr. Williams and Charles Keith, the head of the executive committee, have received dozens of e-mails since the university's student newspaper, The Red & Black, published their e-mail addresses and told students faculty members were mulling the change. Mr. Keith said students seem to want move the break to mid-October or keep the calendar as it stands.
Changing the schedule would force Florida-bound students to "rush down there in the middle of the night" the Thursday or Friday before the game, said Garrett Gravesen, SGA president.
Preventing the mad rush "is exactly what they wanted. Now they're taking it away."
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