Free hour is a luxury that most university students do not have. However, UMBC offers a free hour between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when classes are not scheduled. This mandatory allotted time slot gives students a break in their class schedule to attend club meetings and eat lunch. Over the years, it has proven essential to club recruitment and student life.
Free hour started in 1970 when UMBC students formed a student union to advocate for action and responsibility outside of the Student Government Association. After many widely-attended meetings, the union submitted three proposals to the Faculty Senate. One of these proposals called for the establishment of a free, unscheduled hour for student assembly, organization and advising.
The proposal was approved and the following semester, a free hour was created on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. In 2005, it was moved to 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.
Since the creation of free hour, an increasing number of club meetings and university events have been held during the designated break. Both staff and students have held strong and prevailed through attempts to abolish free hour, indicating that it is a positive experience for many Retrievers.
However, it seems odd that a policy that has proven to be such a success has not been expanded upon in the past 12 years. It is still unclear why free hour continues to be held only three days a week, instead of five. By having a free hour every day of the business week, UMBC could boost the quality of its student life experience and provide the opportunity for students with busy schedules to eat lunch.
The 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. window is prime time for lunch for many students on campus. Brendan Witt, a freshman computer science major, feels very strongly about having some reasonable free time to eat during his busy Tuesday schedule. “From 10[a.m.] to 3[p.m.] I have constant class and then 3-4[pm] I have a break, but then it’s back to class, so I’m not eating until 3:00 p.m…with scheduling on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you have to make a sacrifice between food and classes.”
The introduction of two more free hours during the week would also allow clubs to recruit and retain more people. “Club meetings would be easier to schedule if there were more free hours during the week,” said Samantha Frost, a freshman computer science major. “A lot of them overlap right now.”
As of now, many students struggle to attend clubs, since so many of them are held during the available free hours. Changing free hours to every day would allow students to have an enriching extracurricular experience and explore academic and hobby-based clubs.
However, if UMBC students want a free hour to be held every day, then they are going to have to come together, much like the student union did in 1970. Together, students can fight for the right to get involved and eat lunch every day of the week, not just Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.