Last week, Pittsburg State announced changes made to the spring semester in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in Pittsburg.
The main change of the spring semester being that spring break is cancelled and instead, to make up for not having a week in the middle of the semester, students will be released from the spring semester a week prior than previously scheduled. Dead week will be the week of April 26, and finals week will be the week of May 3
“Like many other institutions, we are taking actions to lessen the potential for further spread of COVID-19 and not having a long break is one such action,” Provost Howard Smith said.
Since the announcement was made, there has been a lot of feedback from students. The PSU social media account received many comments and replies from students, some happy with the decision and some unhappy with it.
“I understand why PSU made the decision to cancel Spring Break,” said Erin Kruse, senior in political science and integrated studies. “We saw community increases of infection around spring break last academic year before having to shut down the university, as well as the case surge on campus at the beginning of the semester this academic year. There is no way for PSU to enforce that students will remain home, practicing safe social distancing guidelines if we have a mid-semester break. I also understand students’ worries about needing a break from coursework for their mental health— I am personally a student who struggles with stress, anxiety, and depression around work and school. However, as someone who is also immunocompromised, I think the risk of another COVID case surge is too high for the university to not address it as effectively as they can. I also think it would be more detrimental to students’ health and academics to also run the risk of having to close campus mid-semester again like last year if we have another high case surge.”
While Kruse agrees with the changes being made and not having a full week break, there also needs to be a compromise to allow students to have a little bit of a break.
“ While I agree we shouldn’t have a full week break, as that is more incentive for students to travel across the country, participate in Spring Break events, etc., I think a compromise that the university should really consider is the suggestion to follow Washburn’s model and provide students with built in “mental health days” each month next semester,” Kruse said. “Students would still get a needed break from coursework, and more regularly, without the potential added risk that a full week off poses to our campus and community. I think this is something they should continue every semester into the future, pandemic or not.”
PSU student Diana Auckly is one student disagrees with the decision.
“While I understand the university’s decision to cancel spring break, I’m not super happy about it,” Auckly said. “I don’t usually travel anywhere myself but having a break during the semester is something that I look forward to. This semester more than any other before, I feel like I can’t catch a break in terms of classwork. Even not having fall break has been a little tough. I know a lot of people, myself included, look forward to those breaks so there is time to rest and relax.”
While she agrees that there needed to be some kind of change made, Auckly doesn’t agree with completely cancelling spring break and felt that there was a better alternative.
“I understand why having spring break as normal would not have been the best option from the university’s standpoint, but I don’t feel like student opinions were accounted for,” Auckly said. “I think I would have been happier if they just shorted spring break a little. Even just a four-day weekend would have been a good break and still possibly would have prevented students from taking the long trips they usually do over the whole week.”
Lindy Fike, graduate student in education, agrees with the decision.
“…Students are going to want to go and do fun things (during spring break)… I just feel like it’s going to keep everyone safer because I just see, in my small community, no one wearing masks, no one taking precautions and I can just think of (that) at the large scale like at the beach… Not having that time is going to reduce the spread and greatly reduce the number of COVID (cases) that’s going to be found on campus and in Pittsburg. So, I just think that it’s just going to keep everybody safer. I know that a lot of people are upset about it but what I just want them to realize is that Pitt is so student centered that they’re doing it for our safety.”
Kruse hopes to see some change regarding this decision.
“I truthfully see both sides to the argument,” Kruse said. “Mental health is a very concerning issue, especially on our campus where we do not have enough resources to provide all students with the help they need. I would like to see administration make a larger effort to provide students with the resources we need— without continuing to raise our tuition and fees—especially when these already strained resources are advertised as the singular remedy to difficult decisions that the students have to bear without input.”
There is no further information regarding whether or not this decision will be revised or at all changed. However, discussions are taking place.
“President Scott has established a dialogue with student government leaders, and they are in discussion regarding the spring schedule,” Smith said.