The 5C student body presidents have called on college administrators to revise the spring 2021 academic calendar, expressing concern that the semester could negatively affect student and faculty mental and physical health.
In a letter Thursday, 5C student government presidents called on college officials to reconsider the newly announced spring 2021 academic calendar, which canceled spring break and replaced it with three one-day breaks.
The presidents advocated a return to a traditional spring break — five consecutive break days — in the event that spring semester is remote again, and five days of break — not specifying how they would be distributed — planned into the semester if students return to campus.
The letter was signed by Payal Kachru PO ’21, Safia Hassan SC ’21, Johnson Lin CM ’21, Mariesa Teo HM ’22 and Becca Zimmerman PZ ’21 with the full support of their respective student governments.
“The spring 2021 academic calendar does not meet the needs of students and faculty in this tumultuous and unpredictable time,” the letter said. “The new schedule reveals the lack of understanding and empathy around the importance of academic breaks; we, like many of our peers, are left both confused and disappointed.”
The student governments emphasized that “Zoom fatigue and other stressors associated with virtual learning will remain in the spring,” citing student and faculty feedback on the condensed academic calendar this fall.
Pitzer Student Senate created a petition upon the school’s calendar announcement, calling for a five-day spring break, regular length academic calendar and reading days. In two days, the petition racked up more than 1,100 signatures from students and community members.
Students rallied for a fall break after it was removed from the fall academic calendar, with many reporting that they were “mentally and physically exhausted.” In response, the Scripps College Faculty Executive Committee recommended faculty reduce workload Oct. 21-23 to make up for the absence of break.
“There has been a consistent, resounding message from our community of the importance of breaks within a semester, as this provides students and faculty with time to recuperate and avoid burnout,” the letter said.
In the announcement of the new academic calendar Tuesday, college administrators said the replacement of spring break was to “encourage students to remain close to campus and minimize both the risks and undue effects of travel during this pandemic” if students were brought back to campus.
The reduced break would also keep the late start from impacting internships, employment, research opportunities or current dates for commencement, according to the email.
The schedule will be used whether students return to any of all of the 5C campuses, the announcement said. “This schedule also represents our best judgments at this time regarding the path of the pandemic and its implications for academic work and life in our community,” the email said.
The student governments recognized that an academic calendar that discourages travel with non-consecutive break days is “logical” if the 5Cs return to campus.
However, the benefits of a partial return to campus “do not outweigh the negative effects of an isolated semester, whether the semester is spent on campus or not,” since even a partial return to campus would mean mostly virtual classes, the letter said.
“We hope that student voices are fully respected in this decision and that we can continue to work with the Colleges in a thoughtful and transparent way moving forward,” the letter said.
Jaimie Ding SC ’21 is from Vancouver, Washington.