A new semester has arrived, and with it, a host of new challenges. While we had a great semester for coronavirus cases in the fall, boasting some of the lowest numbers of any university in the state, we face a different situation than we did in the fall. The virus’s presence has increased significantly in the Greenville area since we were last on campus, so the administration has made some changes. Specifically, new rules, some temporary and some permanent, have been introduced, such as the limiting of in-person interaction to pods of four. However, out of all of Furman’s regulations this semester, the most damaging to the academic success and mental health of the students is the lack of a spring break.

As several people pointed out last semester, the pandemic has had a disastrous effect on student mental health. While there are several factors at play in this, such as the lack of social interaction, the cancellation of potential events, and, worst of all, the loss of friends or family, the biggest academic impact on the entirety of the student body was the complete lack of any break during the semester. Not only were we expected to follow the new rules Furman implemented to the letter, but we also were expected to do this without any time off to take a rest. As a result, the typical mid-semester slump arrived sooner and harder, staying for longer than it would normally.

In order to combat the fatigue experienced in the fall, Furman has implemented monthly no-class days. Including the established Good Friday holiday, students have three days off during the semester - Feb. 18, Mar. 10, and Apr. 2, meaning that the administration only designated two new break days.. While the gesture is appreciated, these no-class days dramatically fail to compensate students for the lack of spring break. We get a seemingly random Thursday and Wednesday off in the semester as opposed to the typical week off. While the week of spring break would be a time of genuine relaxation, these two days off are sandwiched between class days, giving students no actual time off due to the assignments they will have to complete for the next day. 

I understand why Furman made this decision. One of the biggest risks to campus safety is student travel, which could bring COVID cases back to campus from outside hotspots. However, that does not mean spring break had to be completely cancelled. Spring break comes at a crucial part in the semester, providing students a much needed respite after midterm exams. In their zeal to shield the student body from the virus, the university has completely neglected this fact. While students going off campus for spring break would likely cause problems, perhaps an on-campus alternative could have been arranged to still give us a break from classes while keeping us safe. For example, the University could rebrand spring break to “Wellness Week” or something similar and provide safe, COVID-friendly activities on campus for students to participate in to de-stress, such as outdoor movies, intramural sports, or outdoor arts and crafts events. 

At this point, the schedule for our spring semester has been set in stone, so any changes are practically impossible. However, going forward, the administration should make sure they accept some student feedback on these issues if, God forbid, we are still facing the same problems during the Fall 2021 semester or any other point in the future. Something as simple as a virtual town hall or student survey looking for suggestions would be a great way to ensure academic and mental health crises are mitigated in the future.