by The Cowl Editor on November 12, 2020
The Upside of the Spring Break Alternative: Why the Scattered Days off are Better for Mental and Physical Health
by Madeline Morkin ’22
This fall semester, Providence College students have become all too familiar with Continuity emails flooding their inboxes. These emails provide regular updates on the current academic schedule, the College’s social expectations, and other pandemic-related news. However, on Oct. 22, one particular Continuity update shocked our campus in ways far more severe than any prior update: “There will be no traditional March spring break.”
The immediate reaction to this email was one of unified apprehension brought on by sadness, disappointment, and intense irritability among students over the seemingly incessant lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon further reflection, the reaction should instead be one of excitement and gratitude.
The decision to cancel the 2021 spring break was necessary to protect the Friartown community. Canceling spring break bypasses the worry of untracked flights to countless locations, uncontrollable crowded destinations, and an inevitable surge of positive COVID-19 cases on campus. Earlier this semester, we saw what a dangerous impact a small crack in our campus bubble can have.
Only a month ago, Friartown fell suddenly and unexpectedly into lockdown when over 80 students tested positive for COVID-19 in just two days. This quarantine forced healthy students to decide whether they should stay inside their residence halls or leave campus entirely, without any certainty of when or if they would eventually be allowed back into their home away from home.
Before Friartown’s comeback, emails continuously warned students that if they neglected to follow the harsh but necessary regulations, they might not return to campus for the spring semester. After about three weeks of life similar to solitary confinement, PC made its comeback. Students got healthier and made their way slowly, and happily, back onto campus. This comeback took great effort and strength from PC’s faculty, students, and even the state of Rhode Island, but it left everyone wondering: how do we avoid this scenario in the future?
While canceling spring break was necessary to secure the opportunity to finish next semester on our beloved campus, it is important to appreciate PC for recognizing the opportunity to turn this decision into a much-needed moment to tend to our community’s mental health.
The same Oct. 22 Continuity email that canceled spring break also provided a brief breakdown and description of PC’s newly added and dispersed mid-week break days that will be implemented in the spring semester to replace the original spring break week on the 2021 academic calendar.
This semester has taken its toll on the mental health of PC students, faculty, and staff. From the stress of adapting to online classes, to a lack of any social regularity, to mounting positive test and death rates in Providence, PC’s administration has recognized students’ need for a mental break. PC’s reallocation of spring break to single day, mid-week breaks shows an understanding of the needs of students, faculty, and staff, as well as the importance of keeping PC’s community strong together, even while social distancing.
By strategically scheduling these days off on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and sprinkling them between the months of February and April, the College is gifting students with safer and more controllable breaks, away from the stress of classes, while encouraging them to physically remain on or near campus.
All semester, students have spoken about the necessary incorporation of a break into the busy schedules of every student. These mini breaks next semester are an acknowledgment that the administration listened to the student body and that it understands the critical need in today’s uniquely stressful environment to take the time to relax, recuperate, and come back the next day more mentally stable and cognitively aware.
The administration would have been justified in simply canceling spring break for safety reasons, but it seized an opportunity to not only protect the PC community’s physical health, but also tend to its mental wellness. These days off will provide students with a chance to spend time with friends, study or do homework, and simply take several safe breaks to decompress and enjoy life on-campus despite all the changes made by the COVID-19 pandemic.