Surely we, The Index Editorial Board, are not the only ones having second thoughts about this “no breaks” thing in our academic schedule. Coming off of our summer break, which seemed especially long after being away from our campus since March, four months of non-stop school seemed manageable. Many of us on the Editorial Board even felt ready to get back to some sort of routine. Now, we are nearly halfway into the semester, a little burnt out and quite concerned about the remaining weeks in the schedule. Amid these concerns, students have recently received a survey from University administration, asking us to give our opinions about the schedule for next semester.
We, The Index Editorial Board, urge survey takers and administrators to specifically consider the impacts of a schedule without any mid-semester breaks. The mental health impact and burnout, for example, are quite significant. University Counseling Services announced on its Facebook page that it has hired three new part-time counselors this semester to help meet the needs of the campus.
Having no breaks during the semester also doesn’t prevent travel to and from the University, which was a health concern and part of the reason breaks were taken off the academic calendar. Students this semester are still traveling over weekends, not just because they want to, but, in some cases, for needs like personalized healthcare. Many students have obligations at home as well as relationships that affect their mental health, and restrictions on their travel could cause significant troubles for them.
In addition, relaxed attendance policies, which are necessary and beneficial to students during this trying time, do not work well with an academic schedule aimed at preventing travel. Not having breaks encourages students to use the relaxed attendance policies to carve out time for their travel. If we had breaks, students could use that time off for their inevitable travel and decrease the likelihood of them missing valuable class time.
It’s pretty safe to say this semester is beyond what anyone could have anticipated. We all — students, staff, faculty and administration — should critically examine how we are currently feeling about, and dealing with, this long, breakless stretch of school and apply that to our spring semester decisions.