On Sep. 30, UAH announced that they would cancel this school year’s spring break, and make up for it by adding a week to winter break. This announcement was presented as a good thing, with the decision falling into a group of “strategic adjustments”, as an email from the UAH Office of Marketing and Communications calls it.
I think this is a terrible idea.
From one point of view, it makes sense. Covid cases are on the rise in the US again, and it is easy to believe that some people, after a long first half of the semester, may throw caution to the wind and flout Covid regulations during the break. But that doesn’t mean everyone, or even the majority of UAH students will. After all, UAH has a reputation as being an academics-focused commuter school, very much in contrast to other UA schools, such as the University of Alabama, which has been rated by niche.com as the eighth best party school in the nation. Generally speaking, we spend more time studying than socializing.
The resulting intuition, that the risk of transmission at UAH is not representative of other University of Alabama system schools, has been well-supported by the data collected so far. Statistically, UAH has fewer Covid cases than either of its sister schools, with just 72 compared to UAB’s 256 and UA’s 2,533 as of Oct. 7.
As the schedule currently appears, this change means that once spring semester starts, there will be no break. There will be nothing but classes, with weekends rarely being spent on rest or relaxation as students try to keep up and make up assignments. As a senior, my personal observation is that spring semester drags compared to the fall and summer semesters. That feeling some students experience in the spring, that a semester is never going to end, will only grow stronger without a break.
There has also been a documented rise in mental health struggles due to the isolation that is inherent to quarantine. And, while I’m not a doctor, I suspect preventing students from having a spring break where they could see their families (with a mind to safety precautions), rest, and not think about school for a little while could add to that stress.
I suspect this change was made primarily with on-campus students in mind, and I don’t think they thought about online off-campus students, of which there are now many. When the nightmare that is Covid-19 hit the US back in March, UAH transitioned possibly all of its classes online and many students remain online only, or mostly online only this semester. My understanding is that being at home all day attending online classes greatly decreases students’ risk of becoming infected. Virtual students seem to have far fewer in person interactions.