Last year, we were told by Rowan administration that we’d have an extended spring break — two weeks! This year, however, we have none at all.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic this time last year, we haven’t been back to the level of normalcy we had before the outbreak. We do have several vaccines on the market and more than 90 million doses have been administered in the U.S., but masks are still commonplace and social distancing guidelines are still in effect. This being the case, Rowan has completely eliminated spring break this year, instead deciding to tack on an extra week to this past winter break.
While there’s no way to change this plan of action at this point in time, we at The Whit want to evaluate the pros and cons of this decision.
The obvious benefit of having no official spring break this year is that it’s less likely that students will be spending time traveling and partying. This means that there is a lower risk of a campus outbreak in the middle of the semester — in theory. Many universities have taken this route, though there have been several methods of making up the lost time off, including adding an extra week of winter break like Rowan did.
However, since many students have virtual classes anyway, it’s possible that some may elect to go on trips and just complete their work in their downtime. This may make them feel like they’re making up for the loss of spring break, since the extra week of winter break doesn’t feel like sufficient compensation. Once they’ve wrapped up their unofficial break, they’d come back to their on- or off-campus residences, bringing along any exposure they had in their travels.
Barring the possibility of travel and subsequent exposure, there are other potential problems with not having an official spring break. For one, spring break gives a much needed respite from the academic and other school-related obligations students have. Considering that the spring semester doesn’t have a long weekend as the fall semester does with Thanksgiving, there’s no chance to catch our collective breath as students.
In place of a week-long break, some schools like The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) have opted to give one-day breaks throughout the semester, which allows the opportunity to rest or catch up on work without there being a substantial window of time that could be used for travel. For many students, this might be preferable to the extra week of winter break.
Meanwhile, New Jersey universities like New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Rutgers-New Brunswick have stuck with the usual week-long spring break, which gives students a sense of normalcy in an otherwise atypical year.
Aside from spring semester days off, TCNJ has a short fall break every year in addition to Thanksgiving break to give students a few days off from classes. Rowan provides no such luxury.
Unofficially, some Rowan professors have chosen to give a break to their students in the form of fewer assignments or lectures during the week we would typically have off for spring break. While this is very much appreciated, it is not an official Rowan policy and is therefore adopted based on individual professors’ discretion, meaning many students may not have any sort of break, official or otherwise.
Rowan could have even started the semester normally and ended it a week earlier, at which point on- and off-campus students would go home for the summer and an outbreak would be unlikely. It would also give students the sense that they were getting something in return for not having a normal spring break, as summer vacation is more coveted than winter break due to the weather.
Like we said before, there’s no way to revert this decision now, but we believe that evaluating what’s been done can help with similar decisions in the future. Experts predict that big events may be relatively safe once most of the population is vaccinated, likely late this summer for outdoor concerts and next winter for indoor concerts, so COVID-related cancelations may begin trending downward in the near future.
While there may not be as many COVID closures moving forward, we may encounter situations where an emergency closure is considered. Hypothetically, say remediation is needed as there was in 2017 when lead was discovered in campus water. Would administration consider closing the university to remedy the situation and making up for lost instructional time by once again cutting into spring break?
We at The Whit believe that the time for relaxation provided by spring break is crucial for alleviating academic stress, and we think that this year’s cancelation of spring break is a starting point for discussion of the issues expressed here. The Whit urges the administration to consider the points presented in this editorial to make decisions that will not only keep the Rowan community safe, but also satisfied.
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