Last October, the University of Southern Mississippi decided to get rid of spring break for the condensed, COVID-19 adapted Spring 2021 semester. When this was announced, students were incredibly upset, as they saw spring break as a necessary break from the stress of school life. Months later, students are still upset about not having spring break, and worry about its impact on other students during an incredibly stressful semester.
In an attempt to combat student stress, Amy Chasteen, the Executive Vice Provost, worked with other school officials to have additional school holidays throughout the semester. These holidays, taking place on Feb. 19, March 19 and April 2, all fall on Fridays.
“Where we are unusual is that we made an effort to add two new ‘holiday’ weekends in addition to the already scheduled April 2 holiday. This decision was made after feedback from students about the difficulty of having assignments every weekend all semester in fall[. We] wanted to offer some relief since there would not be a traditional spring break,” Chasteen wrote in an official statement.
However, some students, like junior Business Administration major Kiera Hathorn, believe this was not enough.
“I was actually pretty upset because it’s really not the same as having a full week off, because I mean you already get weekends off as it is so that’s nothing new. Plus having one day out of the three weeks, it was just a rip-off to me,” said Hathorn.
It doesn’t help that most Academic departments at Southern Miss currently do not have classes on Fridays, making these “holidays” somewhat redundant. It only further added students’ frustrations at the lack of spring holidays.
“I personally think that that wasn’t a very well thought out decision by the board,” said Elizabeth Collum, a freshman English Licensure major. “Most of us already have three-day weekends, the majority of USM doesn’t have classes on Fridays. […] I understand the idea, but I don’t think that it in theory worked out very well and it did more harm than good.”
Spring break is typically utilized by students to travel, rest, work and do other activities that they were otherwise unable to find time for during the semester. However, without it, some students are noticing the negative effects it has created on their mental health.
“I think that it has definitely affected mental health. Spring break was supposed to be about a week or two ago[,] and that’s when everyone I knew was like ‘I’m burnt out’, ‘I’m done’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I need a break.’ We should have had a week to do what we needed to do with our lives to get back on our feet and plenty of us are stumbling just trying to stay caught up,” said Collum.
“I believe so because some people handle stress differently and then you spend a lot in isolation trying to study and make sure you understand the course. So not having that break to rest from that can cause a mental toll on people,” said Hathorn.
Southern Miss was not the only school to forgo and adapt new spring holidays in response to COVID-19. Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Mississippi College also changed their usual break schedule, with Mississippi College creating a “Spring Break Day” to make up for things. However, other schools, such as Tougaloo College, Louisiana State University and Pearl River Community College, were able to schedule spring break, Mardi Gras and the Easter holiday break into its spring calendar, even with COVID concerns.
Some students are also concerned that this will still be the case for next year, as COVID, though better managed, remains a threat.
“I’d be very irritated. We’re not doing okay. […] I think that, with the amount of backlash this [semester] has gotten, it would be foolish of them to do it again, because it’s obvious nobody’s happy with this decision,” said Collum.
“I’d be upset again [if they canceled spring break.] It would make me upset and have a negative impact on me graduating,” said Hathorn.However, things seem more promising for next year. When directly asked about the Spring 2022 holiday schedule, Chasteen said, “The schedule for 2021-2022 is planned to be like the pre-COVID one, with the usual holidays of fall break, Mardi Gras and Spring Break.”