Gonzaga University has decided to cancel spring break amid the COVID-19 pandemic, adding one additional reading day on March 11, to allow for a four-day weekend, and adding an extra week to winter break.
However, GU decided to allow professors to determine whether or not they want to build in a break for their students based on their needs.
In an email detailing the updated academic calendar, Provost and Senior Vice President Deena Gonzalez said break alternatives may include “a personal day off, a pause day or a day to access library resources, studio or lab spaces, either in person, with safe distancing or remotely.”
The president’s office expressed its pride in keeping the community safe during this pandemic although the community is hesitant about the risks of removing breaks in relation to student’s mental health.
Senior Meghan Casey thought while GU does what it can to provide support for students' mental health, there is more work needed to be done to address mental health as a society.
Despite GU removing spring break, Casey said professors are doing the best they can for students, and most of hers have been understanding about online courses.
“The professors do a lot to make up for what the university can’t or won’t do,” she said.
Casey also said that spring break was a good opportunity to get ahead on big projects and essays.
Although GU implemented a couple days off designated for students to study, Casey doubted it would be enough time for her to start working ahead in her classes.
“Longer breaks are always nice, you just get to have fun," Casey said. "Spring break, a weeklong break, is the best length it could be. It’s not too short, it’s not too long and it’s a short enough time span to where it actually forces you to do those homework assignments.”
Meanwhile, many are still recovering from seasonal depressionthey experienced in the harsh winter months.
Because of the necessity of spring break for their mental health, Casey expects to see an increase in students experiencing burnout related to its removal.
Similarly, Vikas Gumbhir, associate professor of sociology and criminology, said the university is not doing nearly enough to support students' health, especially during a global pandemic and highly prevalent police brutality.
Gumbhir knows that students are held to incredibly high expectations, and because of how rigorous Jesuit education is time-off is needed.
“To be able to perform at this level, especially given the emphasis in our campus culture for over-engagement, for perfectionism, you have got to have that time off," Gumbhir said. "It is no different than taking a day off in between intense exercise routines. The muscles have to heal. You cannot just break them down every day.”
He calls this theory “Survive and Advance.”
Pausing for a moment to relax and recharge is necessary for achieving high levels of productivity, success and a positive outlook on the future, he said.
Gumbhir does believe GU is putting effort and care into keeping its community safe, but he thinks our understanding of "enough" is nowhere near what students may actually need during these unprecedented times.
Gumbhir said that he doesn’t believe any institution has figured out how to do much more than manage the virus.
“We can get you from today to tomorrow to the next day, but I am deeply concerned about the cost. About the cost in terms of people’s wellbeing, be it mental and psychological health, physical health, intellectual health and wellbeing," he said. "Because what I am seeing is just a lot of people going through the motions as they used to – before COVID and before the political crisis – and I don’t think those motions produce the same benefit as they used to.”
In his struggle to provide a break for his students, he has decided to ask them what they want.
Gumbhir said he tries to make his classes accessible and asynchronous by not requiring attendance and uploading all his material online.
Although he is unsure of how the next few weeks may look, he thinks his best solution, as of now, is to continue classes but not cover essential material. The plan is meant to encourage his students to do whatever they need to do in order to stay as healthy as humanly possible during this time.
Gumbhir wants students to know that they have the university’s full support in taking care of themselves, even though he believes faculty hasn’t learned to communicate that in ways that students can understand and trust.
Gumbhir said he encourages students to indulge in activities that are both peaceful and nutritious to their health, by cultivating these habits of life, he believes it will bring individuals balance.