As students call for spring break, professors respond



Since the University cancelled spring break this semester due to COVID-19, some professors are finding ways to give students a break anyway.

EMMA'LE MAAS, Executive Editor

Whereas mid-March typically calls for celebrations from students for the much-anticipated spring break, this year, students are feeling its absence take a toll on their mental health.

Senior oboe and music history major Kristin Rasmussen discussed her own personal struggles. She is diagnosed with both anxiety and bipolar disorder and has found the last several semesters, condensed due to COVID-19, to be exhausting.

“Obviously, (my diagnoses) mean I have to be careful with navigating the amount of stress I endure, and as a music student we have a ton of stress in a normal semester. (COVID-19) these past three semesters has made this much worse,” she said.

Rasmussen said that she and many of her friends agreed that they would have preferred to extend the semester by one week to allow for a spring break.

“I’m exhausted, mentally pushed to my literal breaking point both this semester and last,” she said.

Kameron Reed, senior music major, agreed with Rasmussen.

“With the constant juggling of work and classes, I think everyone’s just really on edge and in need of a break now more than ever,” she said. “Especially now that big class projects are all jammed into one weekend where spring break would usually be, students really need the break to get caught up and just have a chance to breathe.”

Reed said she felt disappointed by the university’s decision to cancel the break. The choice, along with other changes to the spring 2021 academic calendar, was made in the fall of 2020 due to concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many other universities nationwide, including both of Iowa’s other Regents universities, also eliminated spring break this year.

“I don’t think the university put enough consideration into the effect completely getting rid of any form of a break would have on their students’ mental health,” Reed said.

However, students such as Sam Hughes, a senior public relations and marketing major, expressed their understanding for the university’s decision.

“It’s certainly tough to go 16 straight weeks with no time to recharge, but the health and safety of the campus community still is really important as we come to the end of the pandemic,” he said.

Some professors, such as Eric Braley of the digital media department, are creating their own “spring break” by calling off their classes for a week. Students will continue to work on projects, but the class will not meet. This, according to Braley, allows students time to recharge.

“After last semester, seeing the grind of 15 straight weeks, the last couple of weeks you could just see it in the eyes of the students, that they were having a really challenging time,” Braley said. “At the end of the day, this is going to be a very successful semester for all of UNI, but a quick break is necessary in my opinion to be able to finish this strong and not fizzle out when it matters most.”

Eric Lange, head of the department of theatre, has also chosen to give a break to his students and is encouraging all students to find a way to make time for themselves.

“Build in the right amount of down time, exercise time or just ‘turn off the brain’ time,” he said. “No one can run on empty so seek opportunities to refill your tank with energy.”

Lange also encouraged students to figure out priorities with time-management, and reaching out to professors for help if they feel they are drowning in work. “Professors love to help students find solutions, and in most cases are happy to provide some flexibility as long as they know a student is looking ahead and trying to be strategic,” he said.

Braley expressed his pride for the students over the last year.

“Know the snow will melt, the warm temps will be there, and we will get to summer break, you will get to graduation, and you’ll look back at this as an incredible feat of accomplishment that no other student will have had to do at the University of Northern Iowa before.”