Spring break is part of the quintessential college experience.
As a senior in high school last year, I remember imagining what spring break would be like in 2021, but a COVID-19 spring break will not be a vacation in Miami, Florida.
On Dec. 17, 2020, Vice President and Provost JoAnne Epps announced the implementation of two “Wellness Days” on Tuesday, Feb. 23, and Wednesday, March 24. These two days of no classes in the first and second half of the semester would replace the traditional spring break and give students a day to relax and revitalize. This email came almost two months after the initial announcement that spring break would be canceled and was likely out of concern for the mental health of students.
Temple University canceled spring break amid fears that students would travel over the break and spread COVID-19, a similar model other schools implemented.
Living through a pandemic has increased college students’ already high stress levels, making breaks more important than ever. In fact, 71 percent of students stated that the pandemic has increased their stress and anxiety, according to a September 2020 study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
Two Wellness Days cannot adequately allow students to de-stress, and they certainly will not make up for the loss of spring break. As 89 percent of students expressed difficulty concentrating and 82 percent said they worry about their academic performance, according to the JMIR study, they are in desperate need of at least a one-week break.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made learning during the semester even more difficult, said Lauren Nolan, a junior Spanish major.
“If anything, we need a longer break to account for that,” Nolan said.
While it is comforting to know that the university’s leadership is considering the safety of its students and faculty, the spring semester feels incredibly daunting. For me, the fall semester was exhausting even with Thanksgiving break, so the thought of a semester with no break seems utterly draining.
These Wellness Days are useless in the case of students who have no classes on either of these days.
James Riker, a senior psychology major, only has one class on Tuesdays. For students like Riker, having a Tuesday off makes very little difference in stress levels, defeating the purpose of having a Wellness Day.
“It’s nice when you send us emails saying that you care about us, but you need to show us that you care about us,” Riker said. “Have us go online after a regular spring break, and make it easier to get tested.”
This is Riker’s last year at Temple, adding yet another layer of disappointment to his semester.
“So much already had to change, and you can’t just add more to that and expect things to not implode,” Riker said.
While a week-long break would be ideal, the university could improve the Wellness Days by moving them to Fridays or Mondays. This would allow for a longer weekend, help maintain a sense of normalcy and offer a substantial break to students while still limiting the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Although the number of days off would remain the same, students and faculty alike would feel more rested and likely take more time to relax knowing they could have a long weekend.
Many professors may not have time to lose an entire week of instruction because of the late start of the spring semester, wrote Robert Rabiee, an intellectual heritage professor, in an email to The Temple News.
“I’m torn! I think the Wellness Days are a fine idea, but they cannot replace the full week’s rest of a proper spring break,” Rabiee wrote.
A college education is difficult for both students and faculty, and it is important to remember this when the university is planning the school calendar.
“I would proceed carefully and with open hearts, both to the increased workloads for faculty and the unorthodox learning environment for students,” Rabiee wrote.
Compassion for students and faculty should be at the core of all decisions made by the administration. Considering the mental and physical health implications of a week-long break this spring, I sincerely hope Temple’s leadership will recognize the need for more than just two isolated days.