On Oct. 14, Provost Liesl Folks sent an email officially cancelling Spring Break for the 2021 spring semester. Citing efforts to “limit the spread of COVID-19,” the university replaced the week-long break with a series of five reading days spread out throughout the semester, with one in February, two in March and two in April, with only March 9 and 10 being on consecutive days.
Many students are outraged, since online classes are not only a difficult adjustment, but are more work in general. The term “reading days” has also sparked frustration, as it implies students should be doing schoolwork on those days.
Contrary to pop culture belief, Spring Break is not just a time to go to Mexico with friends. It’s exactly what the title implies: a break. If students want to go and party, online school provides that ability. One can attend classes from wherever they are, even if they're halfway across the world as long as they have the internet. Moreover, instead of ensuring every student would have these sporadic days off, some labs may still have to meet on the “reading days,” according to Folks' email. This development has sparked the Opinions Board at the Daily Wildcat to put together a statement on not only the Spring Break decision, but also health in the time of online school in general.
As almost every student has probably noticed over the course of the pandemic, computer screens and an online lifestyle is not very good for the body. First and foremost, the eyes really do not like computer screens. According to Business Insider, “screen time often leads to blurred vision, eye strain, and long-term vision problems like nearsightedness.” On top of that, the blue light emitted from computer screens messes with circadian rhythms and can interfere with melatonin production, causing difficulty falling asleep at night. Too much screen time can also be a factor leading to obesity, since it promotes a more sedentary lifestyle, especially when people are not only attending class online, but also have to be glued to the computer for eight or more hours trying to complete the mountain of busy work they’ve been given. Being on computers can also be very harmful to posture and can lead to lower back pain. Students and instructors now face more physical problems presented from the necessity of constantly being online.
Additionally, since the concept of “Zoom University” became a reality for college students, there have been noticeable challenges in learning primarily via conference calls. While some may think that learning online is an easier option, with more sweatpants and opportunities to cheat, that is not the reality.
While students can find clever ways to cheat, professors have also figured out ways to curb cheating through time limits and Big Brother-esque software like Examity, which accesses students' cameras.
Online learning also comes with an increased difficulty for the mind to pay attention that does not come with face-to-face conversations, according to the BBC. Recognizing facial signals in Zoom conversations requires much more focus than one would have needed pre-Zoom.
Mental health is also worsening for all. U.S. adults are eight times more likely to report symptoms of serious mental distress.
But with all that said, we are living in a global pandemic, and sometimes for life to go on, it must go on in a different format. For university students, faculty and staff, right now, that means doing so through a computer screen.
Regardless of the learning format, students, faculty and staff are faced with the challenges of combating burnout perennially, which is partly why the UA administration’s decision to spread Spring Break thinly over months came as such a disappointment to many.
This is an unfortunate attempt by the university to regulate student activities off-campus. However, instead, the university has taken away what may be one’s only mental health break since January 2021. With students mostly isolated in their homes, days already run together, and schoolwork spills onto weekends now more than ever. Having to be so connected to one’s computer and phone, students are constantly bombarded with reminders of their class work. Now more than ever, it’s important for students to be able to turn off their computer for a week, to catch up on sleep over the course of a week, to actually forget their phones existed — even just for a few hours. Beyond that, if some professors even assigned work to be due on Labor Day this year, forgetting the holiday even existed with COVID-19 around, won’t they be even more inclined to do the same on “reading days”?
And on top of it all, with online options now more accessible than ever, what will stop students from taking that Spring Break anyway? Students can Zoom into their class for an hour just as easily from the comfort of their school apartment as they could from a hotel room on the Miami coastline. If the university wanted to stop travel, shouldn’t it have opted to keep the dorms closed and cease in-person classes for just one semester? Now it’s looking like we’ll be limited to online all of next semester, and if these tactics continue, we’ll be stuck on Zoom until a vaccine comes out.
Plus, while workloads vary from class to class, we have had more free time this semester than ever before due to online classes. There is no longer a need for students or instructors to travel all the way to campus every day, sprint from one class to another, walk up and down various staircases or stand outside of a class while waiting for the previous one to get out. This is in addition to the fact that most clubs and extracurriculars are either also online or canceled until further notice. So what is everyone doing with all this free time besides school or work? For many, the answer is hanging out with friends and/or traveling.
The intent behind cancelling spring break is understandable in the sense that the university understood it had to do something different, but this decision ignores the fact that a lot of people just don’t care about the pandemic whatsoever. It seems like a poor attempt at feigning that we have everything under control when, in reality, we really don’t. It all feels very performative — the appearance of caring about the students seems to be the goal, as opposed to actually helping them.
And yet — after everything — we're still paying full tuition.
Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat Opinions Board and are written by its members. They are Opinions Editor Kayleigh Cook, Editor-in-Chief Sam Burdette, Managing Editor Pascal Albright, Copy Chief JT Thorpe, Assistant Copy Chief Grant Forgues and Assistant Arts & Life Editor Ella McCarville. Follow the Daily Wildcat on Twitter