COVID is creating an atmosphere of uncertainty; CMU should keep the revised schedule

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

When Carnegie Mellon announced their decision to remove spring break, I immediately hated it. Why would the administration choose to rip away the one thing students and faculty all look forward to? Alas, my first chance to experience a college spring break was taken from me. The thought of enduring a full semester of Carnegie Mellon curriculum and stress without a major break still seems inconceivable. However, after closer examination of the circumstances that forced the hand of the administration shines some light to the decision. The fact of the matter is that under the extenuating circumstances we are all under, the current state of the calendar is the only viable option left, after prioritizing our health and the interests of all students and faculty.

With the total coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania exceeding 200,000, the university’s foremost priority is to ensure the physical health of students. However, next semester brings with it a tremendous amount of new complications. Considering the onset of the flu season, which usually peaks between December and February, along with the possibility that more students may be on campus next semester, it made sense to push back the start of the semester and get rid of spring break. In order to guarantee our safety, further preventative measures are necessary. By pushing the start of second semester back and limiting the time school is in session during the flu season, the calendar adjustment does just that.

Well, why not just extend the end of the semester and allow everyone to still enjoy a spring break? This is simply not viable. If this was considered, then all the summer programs and courses would be impacted, and the following year would consequently also be pushed back. What about internships? Students with jobs lined up? Would they be expected to give up weeks of their internship or job? Given Carnegie Mellon’s expensive tuition, many students depend on these paid internships. If the semester is extended, by days even, students may miss out on a significant amount of possible income. The recent schedule change, however, takes the vested interests of everyone into consideration.

The last option would be to have consecutive break days instead of the isolated breaks days of Feb. 23, April 5, and March 19. But, would that really be much better? With a single consecutive break, however, we would not be given any break for essentially 3 months straight! The thought of that seems truly terrifying. Chucking in a mere 3-day break after months of continuous schooling and stress seems to do more harm than good. Instead, with isolated break days, we are given an opportunity to unwind each month, allowing us to maintain stability and prevent stress and burnout.

Although some may say otherwise, the faculty will be trying their best to ensure we do get a true break. Professor David Kosbie, who teaches Fundamentals of Programming and Computer Science, wrote in an email: “We do all we can to avoid assigned work over breaks. We try hard to adjust our sequencing rather than to adjust our curriculum itself, so that students are not adversely affected by somehow learning less due to how breaks happen to align. We take it seriously and we do our best to give our students the best learning experience while also letting them take maximum advantage of their breaks.”

We are all just trying to wade through the uncertain waters of the pandemic. The administration was pushed into a corner, with the physical safety of students, faculty and the general public threatened, and every possible option having its pitfalls. The removal of spring protects us and grants us intervals of relaxation, so we don’t have to endure months of schooling without a break.

So, what now? The only thing we can do is utilize our winter break well. So after this semester comes to an end, let's rest well and rejuvenate. Let’s use our month or so off to learn wellness techniques and create positive habits to equip us for the semester ahead. Let’s jump into the new semester knowing that the professors and the faculty are on our side, doing whatever is in their power to help us. Let’s enter the new semester with a clear plan of attack, knowing that we can overcome anything we set our minds to.