Rockhurst announced over a month ago the faculty and students were no longer going to have the anticipated Spring Break. Instead, courses would resume a week later on Jan. 26 as a substitute for Spring Break. The email the university sent out said “Spring break, originally scheduled for March 15-19, will not be held in an effort to reduce spread of the virus as the result of travel. Many other universities are taking this same precaution, prioritizing safety over tradition. Instead, we will look for other ways to give students a respite.”
Dr. Doug Dunham, the Sr. Vice President for Academic Affairs, explained what the deciding factors were to prolong Christmas Break and cancel Spring Break, saying, “We always have the health and safety of our students and employees when making these decisions. One of the primary ways in which the virus that causes COVID can spread is by traveling. When on campus students have the opportunity to keep their social circles relatively small. At Thanksgiving, people will naturally want to spend time with their family and they have the potential to be around many more people than they would on campus. Thus, to protect students, employees, and families, we thought it best to complete the semester online – as hundreds of colleges and universities across the country are doing. For similar reasons we canceled spring break. There is an even greater likelihood that students’ travel during spring could increase their exposure to the virus and then bring it back to campus (or unknowingly transmit it to others should they be infected prior to their departure).”
What does the Rockhurst community think about this change? To find out the answer, the Sentinel asked two student representatives, as well as two faculty representatives, to comment on the change of schedule.
Fr. Brian Frain spoke about the change positively, saying, “I believe it positively affects my workplace if it reduces the risk of spreading [COVID] to my colleagues.” He said it’s “common sense” to have next semester sans Spring Break, there will be extra time in January to relax longer and reduced travel will mitigate COVID spread to other places as well as reduce the risk to the Rockhurst and KC community.
Fr. Frain recalled when universities did not cancel Spring Break in 2020 even amidst COVID, “I looked in horror at TV reports at Florida beaches filled with U.S. college students heedless of the pleas to maintain social distance and to put on masks. Do I want that as a repeat? Nope! I have no desire to turn Rockhurst into a University of Georgia or, on a comparable scale, to what happened at that college in Atchison, KS. Give me the extra time at the beginning of the semester. It’s not a cancellation in my mind as much as an extended January to enjoy the snow and cold!”
While faculty have been resoundingly positive about new no Spring Break policy, students have different opinions. Sarah Ramirez, a junior from St. Louis studying Marketing in the business program, was concerned about the mental health toil of no Spring Break, “I can’t stay focused on school for that long without a break. I’m going to lose my sanity and I won’t have the mental capability to do well the rest of the semester like I’m used to.” This concern is felt across campus by a number of students, who are, like Ramirez, less than happy about the change of schedule. Ramirez debated the effects of no Spring Break on the capacity of the brain’s intellectual performance, saying “No person can constantly work their brain for that long and produce good results without a break.”
The students’ concerns for mental health were presented to Dr. Doug Dunham. He acknowledged the issue of mental health as an important one, “This is something that is getting a lot of our attention, including a recent discussion between Student Senate, Dr. Quick, and Fr. Curran this week. We are discussing it within the Dean’s council, student development, student success, and our ‘Pathways Planning Task Force’, which is overseeing our COVID response. While we do not have any particulars to share at this time, please be aware this is in the forefront of our thinking and planning. We do encourage students to make use of our Counseling Center (individual appointments, on-line resources), use the Sanvello app daily, and also become involved with Active Minds and many other student organizations who play a restorative and healing role in students’ lives.”
While it is important to preserve mental health, it is equally important to preserve physical health. Ana Ryan, a Kansas City native in her junior year studying Biology and French, commented on the importance of having this physical safety, “It is unfortunate that we don’t get a Spring Break, but if it keeps us safe, you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Edited by Emma Martinez