While the UofA has canceled its week-long spring break – much to many students’ chagrin – some schools in the UA system plan to proceed with theirs.
UA Little Rock will have a spring break from March 21-27, according to the school’s academic calendar. UA for Medical Sciences juniors will have a spring break from March 8-12 and freshmen and sophomores will have on March 20-28.
UA System Communications Director Nate Hinkel said the system’s Board of Trustees met on June 17 and adopted a resolution directing the chancellors of each system school to consider modifications to their campus’s academic calendars. Prior to the 2020-21 school year, all changes had to first be approved by the board.
“(The campuses) will each have their own say depending on what’s going on in their individual communities,” said Hinkel. “The situation is so different all over the state.”
The board had several special meetings over the summer because of the many decisions they needed to make for all the campuses, Hinkel said. The resolution, which extends to the spring semester, gives them more flexibility.
In an email sent to UA Fayetteville students on Oct. 28, Provost Charles Robinson announced that the school’s traditional week-long spring break will be split into five smaller breaks to limit travel and the spread of COVID-19. The smaller breaks will occur Feb. 22-23, March 25-26 and April 2.
Keeping the UA Fayetteville community closer to campus was an important factor in Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz’s decision-making process, Manager of University Communications John Thomas said. The five shorter breaks are intended to limit extensive travel to crowded locations and reduce the chance of students bringing the virus back to campus. However, the plan is subject to change.
“Even with the best planning, nothing is set in stone,” Thomas said. “We will continue watching the latest numbers of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas and nationally and will continue to adjust all planning in accordance with the health and safety needs of our campus community.”
Administrators made the decision in May to cancel fall break and add those days to Thanksgiving break. Because it is typically celebrated with small gatherings and carries a lower risk of virus transmission, administrators decided it was safe to hold the week-long break, Thomas said.
Canadians observed the Thanksgiving holiday on Oct. 12 and the country saw a surge in cases in the weeks following, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard. Total cumulative cases rose by 42,747 in the two weeks following Thanksgiving. They had only risen by 31,186 during the two weeks prior.
Mason Hart, a sophomore, created an online petition requesting the reinstatement of the traditional week-long spring break. He started the petition three weeks ago with a goal of 7,500 signatures and it currently has 6,683. Hart said in the petition’s description that he thinks spring break is a time for students to get away from school, and the intermittent long weekends do not suffice.
“I believe this is important because it gets a lot of the student body heard,” Hart said. “The students of the university did not have much say in this decision and we want to have spring break for many reasons. I hope to get spring break back on the schedule with this petition.”
Associated Student Government President Julia Nall has a sitting position on the UA Faculty Senate’s Calendar Committee. The committee drafts the academic calendar and makes recommendations to the Senate. In a September meeting, the majority of members were in agreement with the decision, said Lauren Loften, Nall’s proxy at the meeting.
Nall said she hopes that if people do decide to travel next semester, they get tested before and after their trips. She recommends the same for Thanksgiving break.
ASG did not make the decision to alter the spring break schedule, but its members advocated for time off for students to take a break from classes, Nall said. Her biggest concern was the mental health of students.
“I know it’s really disappointing for a lot of people, and I’ve seen students concerned about their mental health,” Nall said. “I know the semester has been really hard because it feels like we’ve just been going and going. So I would just say if that’s people’s primary concern, please reach out to CAPS, please look at the resources we have, because it’s really hard to take care of ourselves right now.”