Spring break is important for student wellbeing; CMU should reconsider its decision

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

In light of the spring semester’s delayed start date of Feb. 1, the school’s detrimental decision to replace our standard spring break must be reconsidered, along with its attempts to quell worries of the new alternative.

In his Sep. 10 letter, Provost Jim Garrett outlined the tentative replacements for what most would consider a standard spring break. Provost Garrett later introduced a more definitive spring calendar in his Oct. 9 letter, which reaffirmed the school’s decision to opt for separated break days throughout the semester. While the rationale for a shortened spring break exists, the decision’s flaw lies with the Calendar Innovation Committee’s distribution of spring break’s remnants to isolated points throughout the semester. Essentially, the updated calendar prioritizes individual break days over consecutive ones, with the exception of the now larger gap between semesters.

I’m sure most would agree that nearly a week off in the midst of spring’s academic load would be far more helpful than an extra week in January. However, the break’s placement isn’t necessarily the problem. I’m even more confident that most would expect a break to take the form of consecutive days off rather than isolated ones. This is because, in my experience, individual break days do not translate to the same relaxation or leisure time as that of consecutive ones, even if the number of both is the same.

An underlying problem of individual break days is that they never seem to account for the nature of academic deadlines, especially given the new hybrid model of learning. Provost Garrett addressed this in his Oct. 9 letter when he stated that the University Leadership Council has asked that “major academic deadlines or assessments do not immediately follow these break days.” While this might seem to ease worries surrounding the individual replacement days, in my experience, similar requests have done almost nothing to reduce the amount of work needed on such “break days.” Thus far, we’ve had at least two of these so-called break days in the fall semester: community engagement day, and mid-semester break. The benefits of these for myself and several others were almost invisible, as homework, projects, and papers were still due in a few days.

A better example would be election day, which despite the persistence of many classes, was addressed similarly. In response to a massive petition, Provost Garrett stated in an Oct. 15 letter, that the school’s “expectation is that maximum flexibility be extended to students, faculty and staff on Election Day by cancelling non-election related events and assuring no academic deadlines fall on the day.” Strangely enough, I recall the cancelling of some or all lectures and recitations for myself and others on election day. Despite the day’s resemblance of spring semester’s planned “break days” in their lack of both classes and deadlines, I found myself with a standard weekday workload. With such changes and restrictions on deadlines, it’s not hard to imagine instructors moving deadlines closer together to ensure that they don’t fall on such days.

When separated from each other, such “break days” aren’t necessarily break days. Future deadlines don’t frequently change out of respect for a single day off. Even if they do, the work remains to be done. With multi-day breaks, however, it’s more likely that such deadlines will be planned with respect to the break and its leisure time. For this reason, I feel that it’s important that both Provost Garrett and the Calendar Innovation Committee reconsider the placement of the spring break replacement days.