Students, professors feel mixed after first of two winter break days


GVL Archives

Zsolt Palmer

Classes were canceled on March 10 for the first of two mental health days in the Grand Valley State University winter semester.

These ‘break days’ were added to the semester to give students a mental health break from their studies after concerns were raised by the Student Senate that a fifteen-week semester may not be healthy for everyone. Since Spring Break had been originally canceled due to pandemic concerns, a compromise was made, and two separate break days were placed into the semester.

“One of the rationales for starting the semester a week later and eliminating spring break was to discourage two activities that can accelerate the spread of COVID: extensive travel leading to large gatherings,” said Ed Aboufadel, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. “So, the break days were chosen to be mid-week rather than on a Monday or Friday. We settled on a Wednesday and a Thursday. Thursday was chosen rather than a Tuesday because there are fewer 3-hour graduate courses on Thursdays. March 10 was chosen to be after midterms exams and April 1 was about halfway between March 10 and the end of the semester.” 

The day has come and gone, and some GVSU students were left somewhat underwhelmed by the experience, though others indicated that it was still better than nothing.

“It was nice having the day off,” said first-year student Jillian Pompo. “It helps that Wednesday was my Honors Day, but I really wish we’d still have had a Spring Break.”

Some of the issues students had with the mid-week break day was concerning the fact that their heavy workload prevented them from being able to take any break at all.

“I definitely don’t think that it was what students needed,” said second-year student Hanna Halstead. “Sure, it was a good ‘break’ but most people had to use it to catch up on homework. I’ve been firing on all four cylinders this entire time, and I definitely think that the normal week-long break which lets us forget about assignments and just relax would have been much better for students. I don’t think that GV is doing what’s best for their students right now.”

Other students agreed that the single-day did provide the free break from work they had hoped.

“Normally on a Wednesday I have two synchronous classes and I work for the math tutoring center,” said second-year student Dustin Danckeart. “On break day Wednesday, I had essentially the work of one of those classes, I worked for the math tutoring center, and did other homework, so it wasn’t really much of a break. I do appreciate the thought, though.”

Members of GVSU’s faculty had a more upbeat tune about their experience during the break day.

“It was nice having that break on Wednesday,” said biology professor Bruce Ostrow. “I think it ended up being a catch-up day for most people, but it was nice to have that break, it was nice having a little bit of a breather, and it was nice to catch up on some work.”

With some classes being help completely or partially asynchronous, it was up to professors to decide how much of a break they were going to give students. While they could not assign work for the break day, some professors took it upon themselves to halt assignments for the full week.

“I gave my students the week off with optional workshops during our normal class times,” said associate chemistry professor Richard Lord. “Though, I do not feel ‘refreshed’ mentally as we enter the final stretch of the term. From the students that have shared their feelings with me, I do not get a sense that they do either.”

With the first break day now over, students can look forward to the next one taking place less than a month from now, on April 1.