In the height of midterms season, an official email from the Office of Provost was sent to students. The email explained the adjustment made to the Spring 2021 academic calendar, with the most notable change being the removal of spring break. The break will instead be separated into reading days sprinkled throughout the semester.
The change came in a wave of colleges removing or replacing spring break from academic calendars. The schedule change was made in efforts to prevent students from traveling to and from campus mid-semester, potentially worsening the COVID-19 situation. Schools failing to be able to control COVID-19 outbreaks on their campuses in the fall 2020 semester led to the decision.
"Institutions may have frustratingly little influence over student conduct, but they do have control over the academic calendar," said Brendan Cantwell, a professor at Michigan State University.
Yes, a change had to happen to help minimize COVID-19 cases in the spring. Schools working to prevent the spread of COVID-19, of course, is a good thing. With that said, the transition of an entire week off to days scattered throughout the semester was not the best solution.
Online school for many of us means mass amounts of busy work, small assignments or some other method your professor uses to make sure you are looking at the material and following along in the class. This pretty much means that now my days consist of sleeping, eating and staring into the endless void that is my computer screen. These, what seems like randomly decided reading days, will not serve as much of a break from the monotony that has become life. I mean a Wednesday, really? Not even maybe a Friday or Monday so we could get a long weekend?
The reality is, if the spring semester is anything like the fall, my "reading days" will be spent doing schoolwork, chained to my computer, inside for yet another day with no end in sight (I just got chills). Moreover, at the University of Arizona, a reading day is made to review for finals — literally a day built in for schoolwork. By calling these days off “reading days,” it is implied that we should be working these days. No break will be felt and no relief from school or quarantine will be had, but wasn’t that the whole point of putting breaks into academic semesters in the first place? Some students will not even be allowed to enjoy their day to study and catch up on work, as the email also explained that select labs will be expected to still hold class due to scheduling requirements.
Online school is challenging, just as the rest of the repercussions of COVID-19 have been. Students deserve a break — they deserve the right to enjoy themselves or at the very least to come up for air from the mountain of assignments.
The administration involved in making the decision could have considered involving students, considering it’s the main group effected. I, like many UA students, found out about the substitution of spring break after a few of our fellow students noticed that change in an update of the spring 2021 academic calendar. Had the school involved students in the decision and been given the chance to share their thoughts and feelings, then a collective decision could have been reached to both maintain a time for students, as well as reducing the spread and cases of COVID-19.
A petition being passed amongst students entitled “Keep Spring Break 2021,” has gained 1,556 signatures as of Oct. 23, 2020, and is continuing to grow. The comments sections are filled with students’ own thoughts on why the administration’s decision was misguided. Over and over again the same comments are made. Reading days by definition are intended to be spent working on course work, and to the UA student have always been a day built in to prepare for exams. People are frustrated with the lack of student input and involvement in the decision. Almost every student expressed the importance of spring break to provide escape from their stressful lives. Those who planned to spend break working a few extra hours at work or spending time with their families are now at a loss.
A decision for the students, that doesn’t actually involve any students, seems counterintuitive to me. If anyone from administration is reading this, there is still time to fix this, so maybe talk to some students, or check out this petition, particularly the comments section. My favorites are pictured below.
Lauren is a political science major from Baltimore.