Furman modified its spring calendar and students reacted.
Many students fear they will face the same challenges in the spring that they have struggled with this fall.
On Oct. 13, Furman released its revised Spring calendar with two important modifications. After careful consideration, the faculty’s Academic Policies Committee approved a delayed start of one week and the cancellation of spring break. A delayed start gives the administration time to evaluate the severity of the 2021 flu season prior to students’ return and the removal of spring break prevents extensive off-campus travel.
Possibilities of an on-campus MayX are also under consideration, and the administration is monitoring the viability of travel for international MayX programs. After receiving feedback on student wellbeing during the fall semester, the administration added a one-day break on Mar. 10 in addition to the Apr. 2 holiday. The Easter Monday holiday was also cancelled.
Two members of the Fall Planning Steering Committee, Associate Provost for Engaged Learning Dr. Beth Pontari and Associate Provost for Integrative Science Dr. John Wheeler, responded to The Paladin’s request for comment. Both urged students to refrain from travelling in the spring given current expectations for COVID-19 prevalence in the new year.
After hearing from students that “they needed a break from classes”, Wheeler and Pontari noted that two single-day breaks were added to the spring semester. Both reminded students that hybrid learning is not intended as an alternative for students who wish to travel off-campus but is instead meant to make learning possible for those who are at home or in isolation.
Currently, there are no predictions for how many students will continue with virtual learning in the spring. The testing protocol for the spring term is also currently unknown according to Wheeler and Pontari, who noted that testing options and availability may change by spring. They added that protocols for symptomatic testing and asymptomatic monitoring will “be informed with guidance from our Public Health and Safety Advisory Group” and other advisory committees.
According to Wheeler and Pontari, Furman will be “closely monitoring federal, state, and local guidance” throughout the flu season. Additionally, they noted that since flu symptoms overlap with COVID-19 symptoms, it is “critical that students and employees obtain a flu vaccine this year.” They concluded that, “It is certainly not our intention for the spring semester to have a delayed start,” but the administration is prepared to take steps necessary to adjust for unpredictable future conditions.
Following the announcement, several students reacted to the news of no spring break. Junior Molly Ford appreciated Furman’s quick response about the spring semester but was hoping the announcement would “also outline how Furman would better accommodate students’ social lives.” Ford believes the Paladin Promise encourages students to leave campus to socialize, which inevitably increases chances of contracting COVID-19. She concluded that “If other schools have outlined effective and safe social guidelines for their students’ support, then Furman can too.”
Junior Neci Harris understands Furman’s concern about spring break travel but thinks, “We should get out earlier since we aren’t given that break at all.” Echoing Harris’s statement, junior Natalie Wolf said she has felt drained by this semester, as she usually relied on fall break to catch her breath. Wolf worries “next semester will be equally as draining, especially with no spring break.” Still, Wolf was not surprised by the announcement given all the unexpected twists this year.
Overall, students were not surprised by the announcement, but were disappointed by the lack of breaks throughout the spring term.