In response to the news that spring 2021 would bring another compressed semester, with spring break replaced with three one-day breaks, students reacted with a mixture of anger, stress and confusion.
The compressed fall calendar — one week shorter and with no fall break — has led to student and professor burnout and prompted recommendations of reduced workload. Some students are worried the new spring calendar will bring about the same levels of stress with little reprieve.
“It just seems like it’s a repeat of what we’ve seen now — nothing has been fixed,” Nejra Kravic SC ’21 said of the new calendar. “Now the semester is condensed yet again, and we do not have a [break] yet again.”
According to a Oct. 12 email, the Academic Deans Committee and the President’s Council of the Claremont Colleges made changes to the undergraduate spring calendar “in anticipation of continuing pandemic challenges.”
The shortened semester and discontinuous spring break will “allow for some rest and rejuvenation, will accommodate the later semester start without extending into the summer months and negatively impacting student internships, employment, and/or research experiences or faculty research opportunities nor impinging on current dates for commencement.”
“In addition, given the possibility of in-person residential life, a redistributed break will encourage students to remain close to campus and minimize both the risks and undue effects of travel during this pandemic,” the email said.
Three days after the announcement, more than 1,500 people have signed a petition calling for the reinstallment of a five-day spring break.
The petition, organized by Pitzer College Student Senate, requested the academic calendar include “at the bare minimum” a five-day spring break with no assignments/exams due over the break or in the two-day period following.
“Do not condense the semester,” the petition says. “Give us reading days.”
In the petition’s comments, students said the decision was made without adequate consideration of students’ experience with a shortened semester.
Many students also took to social media to voice their concerns. Nearly 70 students turned to The Student Life’s Instagram post of the announcement to express their outrage at the college administrators’ decision, calling it “disrespectful,” “awful” and “wrong.”
One comment — “they haven’t learned anything from this semester clearly 😭” — received more than 100 likes.
Charlotte Moremen PO ’23 was another such commenter: “Wooo can’t wait for my second semester of leave,” she said.
In a follow-up interview with TSL, Moremen said she agreed with the decision to push back the start of the semester, but the lack of a spring break and compressed schedule led her to take another leave of absence.
“It doesn’t really make sense to get rid of a break that would benefit students and faculty’s mental and physical health if we were online,” Moremen said.
Moremen saw the stress that her roommates went through while attending virtual school throughout the fall semester. She criticized the administration’s handling of the situation, saying they did not take into consideration students’ complaints when making changes to the spring calendar.
“For all the same reasons I took this semester off, I’m gonna take the spring semester off. With a cramped semester and all the stress that my roommates went through … it just doesn’t make sense for me,” Moremen said.
Like Moremen, Liz Korbatov PZ ’24 was shocked when she heard about the changes made to the spring calendar. For Korbatov, the date changes reflected a lack of consideration regarding numerous student complaints throughout the fall semester.
“Initially, I was shocked and a bit horrified. When I opened the email, I actually laughed a little because right after we had had a discussion about mental health — right after the administration had promised to prioritize mental health — they had done something that, frankly, was the antithesis of what they said they would do,” Korbatov said.
“I think it is a slap in the face to all the consortium students. This is a very difficult semester, especially for anyone with mental health issues, and the fact that administrators claim to want to address that, and yet, made this decision is really quite insulting.”
As an international student from Bosnia, Kravic said the break was “very concerning,” citing the stress she and other international students faced in fall.
“Thinking about being an international student, I’m handling incredible time differences … I know what not having a fall break did to my mental health and my well-being in general,” Kravic said. “I was hoping that would be fixed, seeing activism on social media, that would be fixed for the next semester, but it wasn’t.”
On Thursday morning, the 5C student government presidents called on college administrators to revise the spring calendar in emails sent to their respective student bodies.
Like the petition, the joint statement demands five non-consecutive break days or a return to the traditional spring calendar if students are not back on campus, and for increased consideration regarding students’ and faculty’s mental and physical health.
“The spring 2021 academic calendar does not meet the needs of students and faculty in this tumultuous and unpredictable time. 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 statement said.
In a Pitzer College Council meeting Thursday, students urged administrators to address the issues surrounding the academic calendar. Allen Omoto, Pitzer dean of faculty and vice president for academic affairs, said administrators were constricted by trying to find a calendar that “works for all the colleges.”
In the initial announcement email, the ADC recognized that “our institutions and our faculties approached the spring academic calendar with diverse viewpoints and concerns before reaching these decisions.”
At the Thursday meeting, Omoto elaborated on the colleges’ reasoning.
“We are faced with frankly a lot of bad options. Find the one that is the most palatable, least bad I think is where we are sitting. So the calendar then is also constructed in a way that the hope is that the colleges will be able to bring students back at some level,” Omoto said.
The President’s Council of the Claremont Colleges — which approved the current spring academic calendar — will meet next week and “likely” take up consideration of the calendar, Omoto added.
Katherine Almendarez CM ’22, who serves as the Presidential Adviser on Academic Affairs for ASCMC, said she hopes the colleges will adjust the calendar to add a more substantial break.
“Personally, I think the days off [have] the potential if at least there were five of them,” she said via message. “However, after this semester, I cannot imagine going through another semester without a break.”