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Friday goes back onto the calendar

Some colleges try to curb Thursday binge drinking

Forget about "Thirsty Thursdays" kicking off three days of partying on some college campuses this school year. Some colleges are wresting Fridays back from the weekend's clutches.

Framingham State and other colleges are considering whether to schedule more Friday classes, warning students that skipping Friday classes will hurt their grades, and encouraging faculty members to schedule tests and have assignments due that day. The growing effort is trying to curb student drinking and free up classrooms by more evenly distributing courses.

Students and some faculty are grumbling about the take-back-Friday campaign.

"Let's be realistic, kids party on Thursdays," said Mike Webb, a Framingham State junior. "That's not going to stop with more Friday classes. Students will just skip or show up hungover."

Colleges have long scheduled fewer classes on Fridays, but groups, including a national task force on alcohol abuse, have been pressuring colleges to reinstate Friday classes to reduce student drink ing.

"There had been a throw-up-your-hands approach, but colleges are beginning to push back," said Kevin Kruger, associate executive director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators in Washington, D.C.

Officials at Framingham State College plan to hold more Friday classes, estimating that only 3,700 of their roughly 6,000 students take classes that day.

"Thursday night has become the traditional night to socialize, and the socialization can last to the wee hours," said Susanne Conley, the college's dean of students. "We tell students [that] faculty will have no compunction about holding tests or assigning papers on Friday, and we're not all that sympathetic to complaints that they can't sleep in."

Framingham State administrators and faculty are reminding students they won't get Fridays off in the working world and might as well get used to a five-day week. During orientations and campus-wide events, they are urging students to spread their classes over the week so they have more time to prepare.

"Thinking Monday through Thursday is not good preparation for reality," Conley said. "I can't think of anywhere else that's accepted besides a college campus."

But many Framingham State students said yesterday that the college should not try to dictate their schedules.

Senior Lauren Levesque was supposed to have no Friday classes until 11:30 a.m. this fall, but her sociology seminar was abruptly moved to 8:30 a.m.

"They switched it, and I'm not happy about it," said Levesque, who is unsure whether the schedule change was deliberate. "Thursday night is usually party night, but 8:30 is early, and now I'm probably going to have to stay in more. A senior seminar, you have to treat that seriously."

Classmate Josiah Curtis couldn't repress a grin. He has no Friday classes this semester, though he has pledged to use the class-free day for homework.

Some students said they have no problem with Friday classes. Others said they avoid Friday classes for practical reasons: They want to clear a day for work or to travel home.

Faculty members cherish a light teaching day to have more time for meetings and research, and they stress that it's not because they want a three-day weekend.

Elaine Beilin, the chairwoman of the English department at Framingham State, said Friday morning classes are well attended.

"Most of us think if the system's not broke, why fix it?" Beilin said.

Framingham State officials say they can increase attendance on Friday by scheduling more classes that meet only that day. Professors have input about when their classes meet, but the college registrar designs the schedule.

A Harvard spokesman said the university has no plans to increase the number of Friday classes, and a Boston University official said he sees no reason to make changes.

Clark University in Worcester doubled the number of Friday classes four years ago because "students were getting the wrong idea about when the weekend began," said Douglas Little, who was Clark's dean of the college at that time.

"They were shutting down academically Thursday afternoon," he said. "Now students, on the whole, are taking academics a little more seriously."

Students and faculty were initially unhappy about the change but came to accept it, he said.

But at the University of Rhode Island, president Robert Carothers said his attempts in recent years to hold more Friday classes have been an "abject failure."

"It's hard to get the faculty to teach them and hard to get the students to take them," he said.

Carothers sought to curtail student drinking by moving more classes to Fridays, a theory borne out by a recent study linking how much alcohol students drink on Thursdays and the timing of their Friday classes.

The survey, published this summer in a research journal, found that students who don't take Friday classes consume twice as much alcohol on Thursday as those with early Friday classes. Roughly two-thirds of the students who consumed alcohol on Thursdays consumed a binge amount if they had late or no Friday classes. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four for women. Researchers surveyed 3,300 undergraduates over a four-year period at a Midwestern college.

Phillip K. Wood, the lead researcher and psychology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said he began researching the topic after hearing his graduate students complain that few undergraduates attended their Friday classes. After the study was written about by popular media, students bombarded him with e-mails saying they were angry at the "intrusion into their personal lives," Wood said.

Brandon Busteed, founder of Outside The Classroom, a Boston-based company that develops alcohol prevention programs, said that there is virtually no binge drinking on college campuses from Sunday to Wednesday, but that almost 20 percent of students imbibe several alcoholic drinks on Thursday, citing national data.

"Thursday is when the weekend begins," he said. "I think there's some decent momentum behind holding more Friday classes, but it's a tough battle."

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com.

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