One of the biggest schedule changes for Westminster College this semester has been the removal of its weeklong Fall break in mid-October. However, the break was removed this year to prevent mid-semester travel — instead being compensated with the Fall semester ending a week early.
In a schoolwide email sent out in May, Karnell McConnell-Black, former vice president of student affairs & dean of students, announced Fall break would be removed.
“Fall break is removed from the academic calendar, enabling the semester to end early on December 4, 2020,” McConnell-Black said in an email. “The last week of classes between Thanksgiving and December 4 will likely be held remotely.”
This schedule allows students to return home for Thanksgiving and finish out the semester without returning to campus.
“This approach reduces the risk of illness, just as the flu season begins, by minimizing travel for our community,” McConnell-Black said.
While this approach may be the most effective way for Westminster to prevent students from traveling and contracting COVID-19, students expressed mixed feelings about this decision.
“To be honest I’m a little sad,” said Huy Le, senior flight operations major. “But I understand the decision because they are trying to reduce traffic and students going home and potentially bringing back COVID-19.”
Le typically travels home during Fall break to visit family.
“I’m from Idaho so Fall break is a good break for me because I go to school in August and then in two months I go back home,” Le said.
While students like Le are accustomed to getting a break during fall semester, first-year students don’t have past experience to compare the new schedule to.
“I’m a freshman, so it’s hard enough coming here for the first time and then everything is kinda weird,” said Damon Thompson, first-year theatre major. “I don’t really have anything to base it off of. I like the way that it is cause it seems like they’re doing the best they can for us.”
While students recognize the fact that Fall break has been removed to ensure everyone’s health and safety, it can still be mentally taxing. Fall break typically happens right after midterms, giving students a moment to reset after one of the more stressful weeks in the semester.
Because the semester is shortened, coursework has begun to accelerate and students are noticing the difference.
“The semester is going by really fast so it is taking a little bit more effort to kind of catch up on things if youre falling behind, especially with the online format,” said Maria Katsikathas, senior psychology major.
Thompson said he is using his resources to stay on top of his schoolwork.
“I’ve been communicating with my professors and my peers that kinda feel the same way,” Thompson said. “So I mean it’s a little hard sometimes but I’ve been reaching out and getting help if I need it.”