North Texas Daily

Cancelling spring break is hypocritical

Cancelling spring break is hypocritical

Cancelling spring break is hypocritical
October 21
12:00 2020

With over one million deaths worldwide at the hands of COVID-19, I approached this academic year aware it would be an unparalleled experience. Sacrificing many elements of traditional college life seems pretty insignificant compared to the economic damage the pandemic has caused. Public health takes precedence over parties, face to face instruction, in-person student organization meetings and sporting events.

After grappling with the whirlwind transition to distance learning in March, and not receiving a finalized Fall 2020 course schedule until five weeks before its scheduled start, I thought I could not be let down further. Nevertheless, the university has truly outdone itself with the cancellation of spring break 2021.

The cancellation will allow the spring semester to end early on April 22, according to an official notice from university President Neal Smatresk. The university cites concern for public health and fears the break will cause students to abandon social distancing practices to justify the decision. Addressed to the UNT community on Sept. 30, the letter continues to announce spring break will be replaced with a long weekend starting Friday, April 2, cementing the university’s hypocrisy. 

Students who have no regard for the pandemic will utilize the long weekend to party, travel and behave irresponsibly, just as they would during spring break. Prohibiting in-person student organization gatherings has not prevented some students from engaging in unsafe social practices, as President Smatresk has recently addressed. The cancellation will not be any different. By erasing spring break from the academic calendar, the university is blatantly revoking a student’s right to choose.  

The spring break cancellation is just one of two majorly disappointing decisions spurring from the university’s questionable approach to the pandemic. When the president’s office announced its plan to hold virtual commencement ceremonies for Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 graduates, it sent waves of unrest through the student body. The decision felt lazy and underwhelming in comparison to the graduates’ milestone moment.

The university has deemed it unsafe to have spring break, attend a large face to face classes and hold traditional commencement ceremonies. Yet it continues to incessantly encourage students to attend football games. I attended this season’s first two matchups. Social distancing was not enforced, and most attendees removed their masks before the end of the first quarter. Fans’ behavior resembled that of the average, pre-pandemic football game.

President Smatresk and the university have yet to make any serious strides to correct Mean Green fans’ negligence while in Apogee Stadium. In fact, after the first game of the 2020-2021 season, he sent a tweet applauding the game’s attendance turnout.

There is more risk of viewing sporting events in person rather than simply staying home, according to the CDC. If the university is so concerned about public health and slowing the spread of COVID-19, why are they encouraging high-risk behavior?

Perhaps relentless endorsement of attending football games is the UNT administration’s attempt to give students some semblance of what life was like before the virus. If that is the case, they should recognize spring break is necessary and will give students a sense of normalcy.

I mention football game attendance, not to chastise dedicated Mean Green fans, but to note how the university picks and chooses when it wants to be precautious. People are aware of the risks associated with attending sporting events, and it is up to them to choose if it is worth possibly getting infected. The university should apply that same energy when it comes to spring break. 

North Texas Daily previously reported how students have experienced a lack of incentive to be productive since the university’s transition to online learning. Socially distanced classes are necessary to prevent an outbreak of the virus on campus, and the university is justified in their decision to hold online classes. But they have to give students a chance to breathe as well.

Removing the week-long break is a disservice to students and their mental health. Before the pandemic forced the world into a new reality, most people would use the break primarily to travel. But now society is reeling under the strain of a global recession, and students are desperate for relief from online coursework that seems neverending.

The university owes students more than a three day weekend to decompress from extraneous stress triggered by the pandemic. Since distance learning is something that cannot be compromised, spring break was something the student body anticipated for the opportunity to exist outside of due dates, deadlines and Zoom.

Featured Illustration by Jaya Swetha

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Rhema Joy Bell

Rhema Joy Bell

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