Courtesy of Zoe Berg
On Oct. 6, 2020, administrators announced their plans for a modified spring term schedule as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying the start of the semester and eliminating spring break entirely. For some students, however, the five break days dispersed throughout the semester that the University planned to accommodate for lost spring break time were not enough to alleviate burnout.
University Provost Scott Strobel explained that administrators decided to delay the semester by two-weeks in hopes of avoiding flu season and to eliminate spring break in order to minimize student travel back and forth from campus. Both decisions were made in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re doing things to decompress the semester,” Strobel told the News. “[We’re] essentially distributing a week of holiday across the length of the semester.”
The spring 2021 term began on Feb. 1, with break days planned for Feb. 22, March 9, March 24, April 6, and April 23.
In a Jan. 29 email to the student body, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun described the break days as “a chance for rest and renewal,” adding that he had asked the faculty not to schedule assignments or assessments due either on the break days or on the days immediately following them.
Some students, however, were not able to take a break from school work during this time. On the Feb. 22 break day, then-Vice President of the Yale College Council Reilly Johnson ’22 requested on social media that undergraduates notify her of any professors that violated the break day terms described by Chun. Within 24 hours, 18 students had notified her of professors that allegedly rescheduled or held classes during the break day, or required that students submit assignments on the break day or the day after.
“I hope that professors and staff will treat future break days, and the students that need them, with more respect,” Johnson said.
After the first break day, Johnson urged administrators to use more decisive language in their explanation of break day policies and make greater efforts to enforce these policies among professors.
Christion Zappley ’24, who is also a staff producer for the Podcast Desk of the News, said that there was “no difference” in his workload on the first break day in comparison to a regular day of classes, adding that he spent the entirety of the break day focused on catching up on his reading or working on the assignments he had due for the next day.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t meaningfully restful and it reminded me of the stress we will have to endure during the spring semester due to the lack of a cohesive break,” said Zappley of the first break day. “It’s important for professors to respect the no-work policies because it’s inevitable for students to burn out when doing work nonstop like this, especially in the middle of a pandemic.”
But clinical lecturer in law Ryan Thoreson told the News that the first break day was a valuable opportunity to check in with his teaching fellows during a “full speed ahead semester.”
“If we can’t have a spring break, I feel like carving out days is important,” Thoreson told the News.
Thoreson added that while the day off might mean that some sections of his lecture would have assignments due on a different week than others, this was a “small price to pay” for the break day.
Chun justified the decision to disperse the spring break over five days throughout the semester by explaining that a week-long break was not an option for administrators.
“The one-week spring break is not feasible because then we would have to do a reset quarantine because there is no way to prevent a small number of students from traveling,” he told the News. “This decision was not arbitrary either. It was recommended by the public health folks, and many of our peer schools are doing similar things.”
According to the 2021-2022 academic calendar, Yale’s traditional week-long spring break is on track for March of 2022, although the dates are currently subject to change.