In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Utah State University has overhauled the 2021 spring semester and cancelled Spring Break.
According to a statement from USU on Monday, the original start date for the spring semester has been pushed back to Jan. 19, allowing for a longer Winter Break in lieu of a traditional Spring Break. In part, the cancellation was intended “to help reduce the opportunity for the spread of coronavirus that comes with travel.”
“Our students, faculty, and staff have so gracefully adapted to the many changes and challenges seen in this unique school year,” said USU’s Executive Vice President and Provost Frank Galey in the statement. “As we look toward 2021, we need to continue to be diligent so that we can continue to provide the best Aggie experience possible, and I thank everyone in the Aggie family for being so understanding.”
USU Spokesperson Tim Vitale said planning for various COVID-19 safety measures has been ongoing since March. The decision to cancel, Vitale said, was “a tough call.”
Because of the inability to predict future COVID-19 “hot spots,” Vitale said cancelling Spring Break helps curb travel and ultimately reduces the risk of exposure for students and faculty. Additionally, Vitale said the decision helps protect other destination communities where students may travel.
“We don’t know where the hot spots will be,” Vitale said. “We don’t know if we’ll be a hot spot — Utah’s numbers are going up right now.”
A Change.org petition was established on Monday declaring a need and desire for the break. The petition garnered over 230 signatures in around seven hours.
“Spring break isn’t just important for reasons of fun, but it is crucial for mental health. Logan Utah is a dark and dreary place in the winter, and individuals seasonal depression is greatly increased once the joy and cheer of the holidays are over,” the petition states. “Spring break gives students a chance to travel to warmer climates and get some much needed vitamin D. Give us back our spring break!”
Vitale said Spring Break will not only be missed by students, but by faculty and staff as well.
“We understand,” Vitale said. “Spring Break is a rich tradition not just here, at all college campuses.”
Though the majority of feedback was understanding, criticisms of the decision have been received openly, according to Vitale. Student leaders and Faculty Senate members had been included in the decision, and Vitale encouraged students to voice their concerns. For Vitale, part of being a student is learning empowerment and giving input on community affairs.
“The idea that they disagree with a decision and want to voice that opinion is, I say, something we cultivate, not that we fear,” Vitale said. “We’re really proud that the students have been patient with the whole situation. They get it. They understand what they’re facing — what we’re all facing.”