In light of spring break being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, individual departments and faculty members now have the option to give students a lighter workload halfway through the semester. Some are choosing to do so, while others are not.
Thomas Lavallee, associate professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, is making adjustments to his schedule to accommodate for students not having a spring break.
“During that midpoint, there is a pause, or there’s a different kind of focus for the way that the work is done, whether there’s a switch in the mode of engagement, whether it’s instead of maybe a Zoom meeting we have instead a discussion forum or some change in the way that the students are engaging with the material,” Lavallee said.
Lavallee said he hopes this decision will help students retain information, and prevent student burnout.
“There’s a need for a pause and a break. You can’t be going at full tilt for the entire semester,” Lavallee said.
José Licón-Oppenheimer, an instructor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, said he is following the instructions of the department, meaning he will not schedule a break from classes but will have a lighter week.
“I don’t know if it’s a policy of the whole university, but the only thing that our chair asked us was, and I think this comes from the provost, not to give any big deal [exams] or a big assignment for the eighth week of class. So it’s not that the week is free of classes, but it’s a less heavy week,” Licón-Oppenheimer said.
Licón-Oppenheimer said not having a break does not give him extra stress as an instructor, but said students may feel differently.
“Of course I would prefer to have [a break], but I think it’s more important for students than for professors and instructors to have that week,” Licón-Oppenheimer said.
Mitsuru Shimizu, associate professor of psychology, said he does not have a light week scheduled.
“We didn’t really get any instruction about it, so I just assumed that there shouldn’t be any break this semester … I’m kind of trying to keep what I usually taught in my regular course, and when I was scheduling, there was no great place to make it a little bit [of a]lighter week,” Shimizu said.
Shimizu said he hasn’t received any feedback from his students about the decision.
“Sometimes, actually, including a spring break means that [students] got a little bit busier right before the spring break, which doesn’t happen because there’s no break. So I think from their point of view … they aren’t complaining,” Shimizu said.
Lavallee said he feels strongly that faculty should listen to their students and offer them the opportunity to talk about what’s happening.
“When I talk with students about the things that are happening, in terms of their schedules, in terms of the way that they’re doing their learning, [what I hear] is that they’re having to make all kinds of adjustments based on our circumstances. And that’s something that I think … teachers, in a way, have to provide [a] kind of sounding board for the ways that students are managing this very, very difficult time,” Lavallee said.