2021 has begun, kicking off what’s sure to be a roaring 20’s decade fueled by the aftermath of a pandemic, the advent of a worldwide vaccination campaign, and even a new American presidency. I think it’s safe to say that no one was expecting the typical spring semester.

However, I believe it’s also safe to say that Gonzaga students were anticipating the time-honored collegiate pillar of spring break to grant reprieve from the onslaught of work that consistently piles up in the middle of spring semester.

The unfortunate news of the spring break erasure arrived in an Oct. 9 via a blast e-mail outlining the GU academic calendar and subsequent changes in the schedule. Understandably disgruntled with the new development, many students now faced a change of plans regarding possible travel, lodging and family gatherings in addition to accommodating an extended winter break. 

Student reception of this move seemed cold to lukewarm at the best. Elimination of spring break creates a long stretch through the academically busiest weeks of the year wherein students find no solace in extra time to destress or unwind.

The Gonzaga Student Body Association was quick to address these grievances, speaking with administration on behalf of students who felt removal of spring break to be a questionable maneuver in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to engaging in dialogue with the administration, GSBA drafted a resolution recommending the addition of two reading days that would bolster the current single reading day offered by GU administration.

A compromise was reached, granting students an additional Thursday reading day on March 11, with a recommendation that teachers be understanding of student’s workload, and use their discretion to provide days off class if necessary.

However, all of these events transpired long before the advent of the spring semester, as the Academic Calendar was finalized in November, which in this new pandemic world seems like ages ago from the perspective of February.

So now the question becomes, was removing spring break the right way to go? Personally, I believe it is.

An extra-long winter break provided ample time to reconnect with others I had grown distant from, and I think that sentiment may resonate with other students. Although it will be difficult to move forward this spring knowing there are no extended breaks waiting between President’s Day and Easter, I think giving teacher’s the agency to implement their own breaks was incredibly effective. 

I’ve already had teachers outline their semesters and include days where no meetings would be held that allowed time for work on course assignments, or tasks required by other classes. I believe this combination of sanctioned reading days and course specific “no-class” days will prove to be a beneficial mix for students who face difficult months ahead. 

However, I know my experiences with reading days and professor requirements are not analogous to every student at GU. Especially when it comes to the future, I tend to be an optimist; however, I think it pays mightily to operate under a perspective of realism when considering current circumstances. Clearly, there are students who will find themselves overworked, stressed and mired in deadlines as the semester marches onward.

And who knows, I may be one of those students that come this March is pining for a break from the ludicrous amount of work piled up on my desk. But as of right now, I find comfort in what I believe represents the basis of our situation.

GU is doing everything in its’ power to keep students safe and healthy. If removing spring break presents the opportunity to hold COVID-19 infections below a manageable threshold; keeping all students on campus healthy as long as possible is a priority that I can understand superseding a spring break vacation.

Furthermore, instituting a by-case basis supplies teachers with the capability to take feedback from their students on current workload and adjust the course schedule as necessary. America has begun a vaccination race to the finish line, and I believe if we can hold on a little bit longer, we might begin to see a glimmer of light at the end of year-long tunnel.

So, while I may be unable to absolutely tear it up over spring break with my quarantine beach body, I’m just going to keep paddling through this semester. All the while reminding myself to enjoy the little things and remaining conscious of what is to come.

Anders Svenningsen is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter at @torvauld. 

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