No student should have to endure a full semester without intermittent breaks and time to restore their physical, mental and emotional health.
The editorial board urges Georgetown University to reject any plan for the spring 2021 semester that excludes spring break and three-day weekends in favor of a longer winter break. Maintaining breaks is essential in fostering well-being and health among the student body, as well as in preventing burnout.
As the fall semester continues, students are anxiously awaiting the potential Nov. 16 announcement for spring 2021 plans from university officials. Amid this uncertain period, the Georgetown University Student Association announced via Twitter that university administrators voted Oct. 23 to extend winter break and remove holidays from the spring semester. GUSA stated it would fight to keep spring break for students. While we do not yet know the result of the vote, GUSA and the student body are urging administrators to keep spring break regardless of the vote.
On Nov. 2, GUSA Vice President Bryce Badger (MSB ’21) released a survey detailing five different break schedules the university was considering, independently asking for student feedback on behalf of GUSA. The options ranged from maintaining all dates as published years in advance to canceling spring break completely in favor of an extended winter break.
As of Nov. 4, over 400 students have responded to the GUSA survey about the spring schedule, according to GUSA Director of COVID Response Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22). The responses overwhelmingly favored maintaining the original spring schedule, complete with spring and Easter break, as well as all three-day weekends, Sanchez reported.
These results are not surprising; as Hoyas reach the end of this fall semester without three-day weekends, they are feeling especially burnt out approaching Thanksgiving break.
“Let’s be honest, burnout this semester was something that could’ve very easily been avoided,” Badger wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This semester’s academic calendar was at its best a severely misinformed decision and at its worst an insensitive decision to blatantly ignore the circumstances students are under.”
The options that limit breaks throughout the semester are intended to discourage travel in the event of an in-person semester. It is of the utmost importance that we keep students safe and limit their exposure to COVID-19, so discouraging travel is an excellent choice. Georgetown officials are making decisions that meet public health standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a university spokesperson. However, an in-person semester is incredibly unlikely at this point, making this consideration somewhat irrelevant.
Certainly, the university doing everything possible to keep students safe during this time is important. Furthermore, the university must keep in mind that even an in-person semester — which is unlikely — will be just as stressful, if not more so, for students, as they will have to navigate a physical campus where exposure risk may be high. No matter what happens next semester, the university must keep all breaks as scheduled in the interest of students’ overall health.
Students are having an especially difficult time juggling academic stress on top of health concerns from COVID-19, even during an online semester. Deven Malone (SFS ’22) explained in an email to The Hoya the challenge of navigating an online semester amid a pandemic.
“I haven’t had the chance to relax at all and even though I’ve managed to stay on top of my work I can’t shake the feeling of stress and anxiety, that I have to always work and keep moving forward. It isn’t healthy, especially when I’m worried for family safety amongst a pandemic,” Malone wrote.
Considering the negative experience students have reported during the fall semester with limited breaks, the university must act in the best interest of students’ health by preserving breaks as we enter 2021.
In an effort to ensure students have off-time, the university has proposed extending winter break to make up for a lack of spring break. However, extending winter break will not give students a chance to recharge as the academic term drags on. While students may enter the spring semester feeling refreshed, burnout will quickly set in without rest periods, as demonstrated by the high levels of stress reported by the Georgetown community this fall.
The editorial board urges Georgetown to disregard any plans for the spring 2021 semester that could result in fewer breaks throughout the semester. After experiencing a fall semester with limited breaks from class, students are all too aware of how detrimental burnout can be for their health. During a pandemic, no student should feel left behind or unsupported by their university administrators.
No matter what decisions administrators make about the learning environment, Georgetown must pledge to uphold breaks dispersed throughout the spring semester.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.