SNU foregoes spring break for ’21

Nicole Larsen, Reporter

College students and Sierra Nevada University can now add spring break to the list of pandemic casualties. The coveted break in the middle of a 16-week semester for students and was removed from SNU’s spring schedule to disincentivize students from traveling and potentially increasing their Covid exposure bubbles..

SNU instead is offering students five “flex” days throughout the semester, the equivalent of having several three-day weekends.

Former President Donald Trump admonished against international travel last March when the pandemic hit. The CDC reports that a group of 183 students from the University of Texas ignored the president’s plea and spent the Spring break of 2020 in Cabo San Lucas. Of the 183, 60 came back testing positive for COVID. Colleges have adjusted their schedules to balance a desire to have in-class participation with the potential danger of exposure.

Staff member Will Hoida, Administrative Director of Student Life and Outdoor Programs, is on the COVID committee on campus. With his role as an active part of students’ lives and a chair on committee, he said there is both the need for a break and the need to keep everyone on the campus as safe as possible.

“I think spring break is a great tradition that allows students to take a well-earned week off in the middle of their semester to have some fun with their peers,” Hoida said. “With that said, with Covid still a factor, the potential costs just outweigh the benefits this year. Our primary goal is to be able to hopefully avoid a Covid outbreak on campus so that we can continue on ground classes for the entire semester.”

Many SNU students are grateful to be back on campus. Biology major Skye Graves was a freshman last year when the pandemic hit. At the college extended spring break two weeks then made the decision to move the balance of the semester totally online by mid-March.

“I thought the extra week would be fun, but not so much. I worked and played video games. I didn’t get to go anywhere thanks to Covid,” Graves said. “It was really depressing, to be honest. I missed my friends and eventually they all moved back home, so I felt really lonely in the dorms.”

Pre-pandemic, Graves loved spending time traveling, swimming, and hanging out with her friends and family. One of her favorite trips was when she went to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico with her aunt, uncle, and nana. She remembers the excellent food and the pleasure of swimming at the beach every day.

With no option for spring break, the Las Vegas native shared her thoughts on the “flex” days SNU is offering.

“I really feel like I could use a spring break, not go to a party but just for a break. Classes are a lot right now and I feel like everyone could use a second to breathe. The flex days are nice, but they don’t really have the same essence as spring break. They kind of just feel like an extra day to do homework,” Graves said.

SNU has taken strides to decrease the risks of exposure this semester. Everyone, staff and student alike, has been required to pass a covid test before coming back on to the grounds. And biweekly testing is being offered on campus.

There is a six feet of distance required in every classroom and building. With the risk of exposure and spread if students could travel for spring break, SNU felt the built-in flex days were the best option to keep the campus open and lower the risk of a potential outbreak.

“I agree that the flex days are not the same as getting an entire week off for spring break, but I hope students can get excited about having a weekday off five times this semester where they can go skiing at the resorts when it is less crowded or take a day for themselves,” Hoida said.

 

Freshman Anne Kuousman agrees that having some days off is better than none, as she enjoys her three-day weekends that the flex days offer. However, adjunct professor and author Gayle Brandeis understands how vital a break is to the life of a student.

“Being a university student can be intense even when a global pandemic isn’t raging, and down time is so important – I can remember relishing spring break as an undergrad, feeling like it gave me a chance to not just breathe and relax, but also absorb everything I had just learned, letting it settle into a deeper place so I could create space for new learning,” she said.

Brandeis explained how our nervous system has a “window of tolerance,” a place for learning and memory that can be overwhelmed without breaks. Breaks are an essential part of the learning process.

Professor Chris Anderson is also on the same page as Graves, Kuousman, and Brandeis when it comes to desiring a break, but said he understands why SNU won’t have one this semester.

“I’d rather have spring break than not, but times are definitely far from normal. I think we’re lucky to be on campus and I hope we can continue, and if keeping students on campus rather than having a spring break allows us to keep our on-ground classes going through the end of the semester, then I think it’s a good decision. I do hope, though, that everything can go back to normal next year!’ Anderson exclaimed.

Spring break or not, many staff and students are simply grateful to experience in-person learning this semester, even if it means wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart.