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Students, faculty, administration clash over Spring 2021 academic calendar

November 14, 2020


Illustration by Deborah Han

After a fall semester devoid of breaks, students are turning their attention to the upcoming semester’s academic calendar, asking for days off to prevent burnout and Zoom fatigue. 

This comes as Georgetown’s administration weighs academic calendar options as part of the adapted Spring 2021 plan to be released on Nov. 16. Possible courses of action include delayed semester start dates, the combination of spring and Easter breaks, and removal or rescheduling of long-weekend holidays.

These potential changes follow those made in July to the Fall 2020 academic calendar, which removed mid-semester breaks in favor of a week-long break over Thanksgiving. These adaptations were made to discourage students from traveling during long weekends, according to the administration.

Faculty have weighed in heavily on potential changes to the spring academic calendar. During an Oct. 22 vote, faculty members voted in favor of extending winter break by seven days and combining Easter and spring breaks. However, university administration and Provost Bob Groves will ultimately determine the finalized academic calendar.

Among students, the decision to forego long weekends has proven unpopular, according to a GUSA COVID Committee survey. Many students have cited burnout and exhaustion as a result of the as-yet-breakless fall semester.

“Most people who have responded to the survey have talked about the toll on mental health that it’s taking, the draining environment that’s created by having no breaks,” Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22), who heads the COVID Committee, said. “It’s really affecting academic performance, emotional and physical wellbeing, [and] wellbeing on Zoom after not getting that break.”

The GUSA survey presented six options for respondents to rate. Of the 492 respondents, 53.9 percent preferred the schedule to remain as it is currently, with a Jan. 11 start date; long weekends for Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Easter break; and a weeklong spring break.

Least popular among students were the two proposals that involved a late start date on Jan. 21, removal of long weekends, and either consolidation of spring break with Easter break or elimination or spring break entirely.

“Just going straight through all the way from January to March 29 is something that people generally have just been not pushing for,” GUSA Vice President Bryce Badger (MSB ’21) said.

At a GUSA Senate meeting on Nov. 1, the Senate passed a resolution demanding mandatory breaks in the academic calendar, including two three-day weekends each semester. 

Conflicting perspectives among faculty and students have contributed to the controversy surrounding changes to the academic calendar. According to Sanchez, conversations with Groves have indicated that the university is weighing faculty responses heavily as they create the finalized academic calendar.

“It’s overwhelmingly clear that we need dispersed breaks and a spring break and not a combined Easter and spring break without having any others in between,” Sanchez said. “So to me, it feels like [the administration is] leaning more on faculty more than students.”

Additionally, the spring academic calendar will depend on whether any spring classes will be in-person, in which case the university will likely seek to limit the travel of students on-campus. One of the options presented in the GUSA survey proposes students move out of their university housing during a combined spring/Easter break and complete the final five weeks of the semester online; another moves one-day breaks from Fridays and Mondays to midweek to prevent students from traveling over long weekends.

According to the university, the final decision for the spring plan, including the spring calendar, will be announced on Nov. 16.



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