Scripps College’s Faculty Executive Committee is recommending that faculty consider reducing students’ workload from Oct. 21 to 23 in response to student burnout from the condensed online semester and absence of fall break.
If not from Oct. 21 to 23, the FEC recommended in a memorandum that Scripps faculty consider reducing the workload anytime during the same week “to address the students’ stress and exhaustion” from a semester that’s been moved online, shortened by a week, taken away fall break, added Saturday class and happening during a pandemic.
“Many students are feeling taxed and overwhelmed from the online fall semester. They are focused on their studies while simultaneously facing personal, work, family, societal and home issues,” the Scripps FEC said in an email that Scripps Dean of Faculty Amy Marcus-Newhall sent to students. “They are feeling especially stressed without the normal fall break and are looking for a way to take care of their physical and mental health.”
Marcus-Newhall said she heard concerns from students and brought them to the Academic Deans Committee of the Claremont Colleges and to Scripps’ FEC. They are not able to provide break days at this point in the semester, but, she said, the recommendation by the FEC has been sent to all Scripps faculty.
“I have heard from many of you over the past several days about how incredibly challenging and difficult this semester has and continues to be on many levels,” she said in the email.
In multiple stories published by TSL, students have said they feel “mentally and physically exhausted” from the remote semester, and in a survey sent to the Pitzer College student body, students reported being overwhelmed and likewise exhausted.
In an ASPC survey presented to Pomona College’s board of trustees, about 26 percent of students indicated they “feel a sense of community with other Pomona students this semester.”
The announcement comes after Nobody Fails at Scripps, a student organizing group, pushed for an impromptu break on those days.
The group asked students to email faculty and administration with a pre-written template for either a break, class cancellation or work reduction by professors on those dates. The group also called for students at the other 5Cs to email administrators.
“It is unjust to demand students complete an accelerated, typically-graded semester while struggling with challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic without a break,” an Instagram post, which has accumulated more than 400 likes, from Nobody Fails at Scripps says. “We must prioritize the wellbeing of our community.”
Scripps and Pomona spokespeople previously said any change to the academic calendar would require agreement from all five colleges and that the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation organization requires a minimum number of course hours by credit.
“We cannot carve breaks out of the semester without consequences to financial aid and accreditation, both of which are based around a set number of hours in each class throughout the semester,” Pomona vice president of academic affairs Robert Gaines said.
“All five colleges would have to agree to an extension of the semester beyond the current exam week (the week following Thanksgiving). We see this path as problematic and we have chosen to honor the expectations that were in place when the term began rather than introduce further disruption,” Gaines added.
Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College and Harvey Mudd College spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment when asked if their schools are considering adding a fall break.