One of the most anticipated times of the year for North Texas students is their weeklong spring-time sabbatical from the grind of work, books and exams.
College spring break has evolved, however, from an extended holiday weekend to the celebrated weeklong road trips popular today. For decades at North Texas, spring “vacation” was a four-and-a-half-day Easter weekend.
Early Campus Chat newspaper stories reveal students’ plans for going on hunting and fishing trips, attending political club meetings or returning home to see parents or sweethearts. One student in 1964 planned on “assuming a reclining position and staying that way.”
A popular 1960 motion picture is often credited with changing college spring break forever. Where the Boys Are told the story of four female college students from the Midwest who traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for their spring vacation. The movie played in Denton in 1961 and no doubt inspired North Texans to seek a longer break.
Students began voicing criticism that Easter break was simply not long enough as early as 1967. That year one newspaper writer referred to college as a “full-time job” and suggested the need for a cooling-off period. The next year a reporter suggested cutting the time between the fall and spring semesters by three days and adding that time to the normal break period. Three years later — April 1971 — North Texas dismissed spring classes for an entire week.
From the beginning, some professors managed to combine business and pleasure by assigning clever class assignments to vacationing students. In one of the first spring break stories published in the NT Daily, reporter Timothy Bullard (’74) followed 33 business students to Mexico City in 1973 for a marketing research class project. Professor Warren Chaney had his students purchase merchandise ranging from Tiffany lamps to duplicates of pre-Colombian art. The students were to bring the items back to Texas to try to sell them at a profit, an attempt to find the most profitable retail items and a test of their marketing abilities.
Today’s students also find ways to be productive while enjoying the break. This year, UNT’s Volunteer Center sponsored its first Alternative Spring Break. A group of students and staff traveled to San Antonio to work at a children’s hospital, food bank and youth center.