The University of Alabama announced in late September that it will be canceling spring break in the upcoming semester in order to avoid travel and further spread of COVID-19. To make up for the loss of this break, an extra week of vacation will be added to the existing winter break and students will receive a “mental health day” on March 15.
While the amount of off days are technically the same, some students are concerned about how their mental health will fare after about 15 straight weeks of class.
“While I do understand the need for something, I truly think this is a terrible way to make sure the student body is taken care of,” said Rayne Ward, a junior majoring in microbiology. “Having an extra week in the winter will be nice, but it won’t make up for having that break where we need it most. I personally don’t know what the best solution would be. I think more time should have been taken to find one considering it was made months before the semester ended.”
Joshua Hernandez, a junior majoring in psychology, expressed his frustration with the lack of student involvement in this decision.
“I personally don’t understand why they couldn’t have waited until December to see if it would really be necessary and also why they couldn’t have informed the student body beforehand that this could be a possibility,” Hernandez said. “I understand the importance of keeping numbers down, but what I also understand is that students deserve to be involved in decisions that directly affect us.”
Some students who have already bought plane tickets or travel plans said they intend to simply miss class during this week of instruction. A UA professor who wished to remain anonymous expressed their sympathy for students who had intact travel plans before this announcement.
“I feel for these kids, I really do. Fortunately my significant other and I hadn’t purchased tickets yet when the announcement came out, but we had been planning to go see family,” the professor said. “We just have to hope now that travel restrictions will be lifted in time for us to go during the winter break. The other thing is, I understand that we got the end of winter break extended but really what is that worth? You gave these kids an extra week in what is the worst time of the year both money- and weather-wise to go do things.”
Beside travel concerns and the lack of involvement of the student body, another thing that students take issue with is the acknowledgement from the University that students’ mental health is at risk, but that they are only giving one day to accommodate for it.
“This will be devastating to our mental health this upcoming semester even though I know it will help curb the transmission,” said Jeweles Moton, a senior majoring in management information systems. “I would love a justification on how students are supposed to have a one-day mental health break next semester.”
Hernandez echoed Moton’s frustration.
“I think the University should explain if they really think students can just save up all of their mental breakdowns and just plan to use that one day to deal with them,” he said. “Mental health is already at an all-time low on campus and I cannot imagine how bad it will be next semester.”
While reactions have been largely negative, most students have agreed that they understand this decision will lower infection rates. They just do not agree with the way the University chose to do so. Kevin Woosley, a music professor, was optimistic about the situation.
“This is a temporary inconvenience that will lead to better things and better health in the long term. We want students to be able to not only grow in their fields, but to do so safely,” Woosley said. “None of us like the cancellation, but it’s the right thing to do, in the same way I don’t always enjoy eating healthy, but it’s the right thing to do.”
While he worries that mental health will decline next semester, Hernandez is hopeful that the University will focus more on its mental health resources. Woosley is already planning stress relieving Zoom movie nights for his students and hoping this is something that will bring campus closer together.
For anyone who may be mourning missed vacations this next semester, Woosley offers some advice.
“One doesn’t have to travel to the beach to have a good, safe time and make lifelong memories. We simply need each other,” he said. “Losing a week-long break makes it hard, but we’re in this as a team.”