Historically, PSU has had two breaks- a two-day fall break in October and three days off in addition to the weekend for Thanksgiving. However, like many other aspects of university life, the break schedule changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic when the university made the decision to combine fall and Thanksgiving break-dismissing students for Thanksgiving, then finishing the semester online.
Now, the university is seeking input from students, faculty, and staff to make the combination of the two breaks permanent.
“It was brought to our attention and asked if have thought about doing this from some students as well as some staff, so that was the catalyst for us beginning to look into this,” said Howard Smith, Provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
According to Smith, the changes would be to the academic schedule, not to the instructional delivery.
On Feb. 18, a survey via a BULK-E email was sent out to students, faculty, and staff to seek their input on the decision.
Devynn Pitts, sophomore in graphic design and art, supports a permanent change to the break schedule as she perceives it having multiple benefits.
“…Having one long break rather than multiple would give students and instructors more time to spend with their families and relax over the holiday,” Pitts said. “I personally think it would be beneficial to give students and instructors a longer break to organize their work and get ready for exams. It would also give students an incentive to work hard until the break as it would be something to look forward to and work for.”
According to Smith, the university is “more neutral” on the matter as the number of instructional days would remain the same.
“I know the people who brought it to us felt that during Thanksgiving it gave more opportunity to travel and go places from here,” Smith said. “So, it will probably impact people differently, and based on what we’ve heard so far, some people think it’s a great idea and some people don’t like it at all.”
From an instructor’s point of view, Matthew Lunde, Assistant Professor of Marketing and Sustainability, also supports the combination of the breaks.
“I support it because, as a professor, I know a lot of students skip those two or three days before Thanksgiving anyway,” Lunde said. “It’s hard to get anything done in that week, and in the Spring, we don’t have a two day break we combine it all to Spring break so it’s almost like a spring break for the fall. From an instructional standpoint as well, it’s really easy to plan the semester as well when there’s just a whole week then at the end we can come back and do final exams and presentations.”
Lunde also said the added time gives students more time to travel back and forth for the break.
However, Pitts said there could be some downsides to combining the breaks.
“On the flip side, it could cause students to overexert themselves without a smaller break from their workloads,” Pitts said. “It could also make it harder to come back from one long break and finish out the rest of the semester strong without slacking off.”
Moving forward, responses from the survey will be analyzed then the President’s council, who approves all revisions to calendars, will make a decision.
“We’ll look at the survey and look at the comments then the President’s council will end up weighing in at the end about whether or not to do this or not do this,” Smith said. “We’re (going to) look at the input we’ve received, because if you ask for input you need to consider it.”
According to Smith, the decision will be made “fairly quickly” as people are already beginning to plan for the fall semester.