Changing the calendar to move finals before the winter break to reduce stress is a bad idea. Stress is good! Ask any Marine drill instructor, coach of an athletic team, or senior manager of a successful corporation, and 100 percent will say stress is invaluable for winning. As CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch in a mere 19 years increased its capitalization from $15 billion to more than $500 billion, the highest in the world at that time. Welch’s personnel policy was automatically to fire 10 percent of his executives annually. Students protected by speech codes and safe places need to experience a good dollop of stress in college before entering a world where their boss’s job is not protected by tenure.
January exams also help an important minority of students, to wit, those with low SAT scores and high conscientiousness. They can use the Christmas and spring breaks to study 15 hours a day to catch up with or pass those with higher SATs and lower conscientiousness. See the books by Angela Duckworth and Howard Friedman, psychologists and psychology professors who conclude that conscientiousness is the best predictor of success.
Princeton should not produce graduates best fitted for France’s 35-hour workweek, one-month holiday, and legal protection from dismissal.