(NEXSTAR) – Boston College sophomore Wells Arkins was looking forward to spring break this year, as most college students do. He and some friends planned to get away to the Cape for the week to unwind from midterms and get some much-needed relaxation.
But in November, those plans changed when Boston College announced it would be altogether canceling spring break, reducing it to a single Wednesday off from classes. In an email to students, the university cited the risks involved with travel to and from campus during the coronavirus pandemic: “The University expects that students will not be engaging in traditional ‘spring break’ travel and activities this semester. Students who engage in such travel and return to campus place the campus community at the risk for a major spread of the virus.”
“I obviously understand 100-percent why we don’t have spring break,” Arkins said. “I don’t disagree with it, but it’s frustrating because I feel like they should have at least given us multiple weekdays off. We just finished two weeks in a row of pretty heavy midterms, and it’s nice to have that break.”
Just some of the colleges that have canceled the midterm break include Yale University, Washburn University, Purdue University, Ohio State University, the University of Kentucky, and all of Iowa’s public universities.
Many students and professors seem to understand the decision. “Institutions may have frustratingly little influence over student conduct, but they do have control over the academic calendar,” Brendan Cantwell, a professor and coordinator of the Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education program at Michigan State University, told Higher Ed Dive.
“The start of fall semester shows us that anywhere students congregate, COVID spreads,” Cantwell said. “Even when institutions hold classes remotely and close (their) residence halls, students living in the surrounding community contract and spread the virus.”
College campuses have not been immune to the COVID pandemic. In a New York Times story updated mid-December, the paper counted more than 397,000 cases and at least 90 deaths at 1,800-plus universities since the start of the pandemic.
One public health expert from Johns Hopkins University even warned of a potential surge in COVID cases ahead of spring break. “Any event that involves increased travel and people relaxing preventative measures is a concern,” Amber D’Souza, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told NBC News.
In response to the pandemic, many schools, including the entire University of California system, have switched to remote, online learning. Others have continued in-person instruction, but tightened rules and regulations for behavior on and off campus, including the cancellation of traditional breaks.
Though he’ll miss his spring break, Arkins said he’s taking it in-stride. On his single day off, he plans to “sleep in, take the day off and not focus on school for once.”