Associate News Editor
With the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altering the conventional college experience, the university has announced another major change — it is cancelling its normally-scheduled spring break.
An email sent out by the university stated that “this year there will be no spring break to minimize off-campus travel.” Classes will be suspended for two “Blue Hen Re-coop days” on March 30 and April 19. Final exams are scheduled from May 20 to May 27.
In its efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19, the university also delayed the beginning of the spring semester by a week, providing students with a winter break of almost two months.
The decision to eliminate spring break from the schedule took place long before the start of the semester. According to Andrea Boyle Tippett, the director of external relations for the Office of Communications and Marketing, the university was alerted in October about the spring semester.
With more than 4,000 students on campus, the university plans to be extremely cautious about student interactions with individuals who might be COVID-19 positive.
“It is a known factor that the more you mingle with others outside of your household, the higher your rate of risk is going to go, and so we didn’t think it was wise to have students, thousands of people, leaving Newark, going elsewhere and then coming back,” Boyle Tippett said. “It is the same reason that we didn’t have on-campus classes after the Thanksgiving break.”
While the university’s measures come in response to limiting the spread of COVID-19, not all students are in agreement that a week long break should be removed. Some believe that a semester with no break might result in high levels of stress — a large number of students utilize the break period to catch up on readings as they approach their final exams.
“I don’t think it’s really going to affect how COVID is going to decrease, but of course it’s going to stop students from travelling,” Samra Arshad, a junior neuroscience major, said. “I was shook when I heard I am not getting spring break because that is the time I know I can prepare well for my finals.”
Elyse DiPisa, a sophomore media communications major, felt that having the spring break is crucial, especially in an online semester where students might need a break from constantly looking at their computer screen.
“Having a break is a great way to focus on my mental health and take a much deserved time away from schoolwork,” DiPisa said. “It is definitely more of a challenge … but I think I will adapt and as will other students, although it is unfortunate.”
Faculty members have also been affected by the decision. Professors are making changes to their schedule and some are even working time off into their syllabi. Although, a few still believe the absence of a break to be a good thing, from an instructional standpoint.
“I’ve always felt deeply equivocal about spring break, since most years my students, like me, seem to return from it more or less brain dead because they regard it as the unofficial end of the term,” Thomas Leitch, a professor in the English department, said. “It’s hard for me to get them to bear down during the last six weeks of the usual spring term, and I feel disingenuous for trying, since it’s hard for me to bear down myself.”
Apart from canceling the spring break, the university has also been doing 1,000 surveillance tests a week, which it hopes to ramp up to 4,000 a week soon. Other preventive measures in the Spring 2021 student guidelines include a strict mandate on wearing masks, physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings.