In an effort to prevent student travel during the pandemic, Emory canceled spring break for the spring 2021 semester. In its place, the University implemented three “rest days” with no classes on February 17, March 16 and April 14. The Emory College Faculty Senate also passed a resolution recommending professors implement a “no assignment” week from March 14 to 19. 

In lieu of spring break, the rest days and the “no assignment” week give students a chance to take a break from their classes. 

However, some students reported varied levels of compliance among professors with the rest day requirements after the first rest day on Feb. 17. 

“My rest day was basically any other day of the semester,” Ania Korpanty (22C) said. “I still had lectures to watch, I still had assignments due on the day and I still had one of my classes meet. There was genuinely no ‘rest’ about it, which I think everyone knew was going to be the case from the very moment Emory announced it would implement these days.”

However, some students have expressed disappointment over the University’s cancellation of spring break. 

“While I understand how keeping everyone on campus is safer, not having a spring break is just resulting in more fatigue,” Brandon Joseph (24C) said. “I don’t think that’s talked about enough. Countless Zooms and online assignments back to back with limited time off leaves students exhausted.”  

Many students said they experienced burnout, an effect of higher than normal and prolonged stress levels. Numerous studies corroborate that vacations from work can improve psychological well-being and productivity. 

Illustration by Alison Barlow

Diana Kerolos (23C), an international student currently studying in Egypt, said the lack of a spring break has taken a toll on her mental health, which has only been diminished by the eight hour time difference. 

“Last semester I was and I still am super burnt out, like violently burnt out,” Sarah Gordon (22C) said. “It is simply impossible to maintain that quantity and quality of work when there are: A) no outlets for any of us and B) no breaks.”

The University announced the plan for the spring semester in an Oct. 21 email. Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Joanne Brizinski wrote that after hearing from students and faculty about the challenges they faced in the fall semester, they decided to implement the three rest days to “create some breathing room in the flow of the semester.”

Some students, such as Aviel Rodriguez (23C), found the rest days to be helpful and a nice break.

“All my professors abided by the rest day guidelines and made sure not to assign us any work for sure,” Rodriguez said, also noting that his accounting professor postponed the class homework and canceled a lecture.  

“The administration is doing what’s right at the moment, considering how much school we’ve lost due to the extended break,” Gustavo Lopez (24C) said. “I also understand the COVID risk posed by letting students have spring break. Although these aren’t my ideal circumstances, they are a welcome improvement to my quality of life this semester.”

In a virtual town hall on Oct. 16, Interim Provost Jan Love advised students to “plan ahead … so that you would be able to rest on a day when there are no classes.” These comments and the decisions of the administration have left some students feeling unheard and misunderstood. 

“Having a whole week of rest canceled and replaced with jumbled three days in the entire semester is absurd and makes me more furious than having no break days at all,” Kerolos said. “It shows just how much the administration does not understand our struggles academically or mentally.”

 On April 14, no classes will be held and instead will occur on April 12. 

While some students, like Lopez, anticipate the upcoming “no assignments” week, others believe it will not make up for the loss of spring break.

“I understand what the administration is trying to do, trying to limit travel, and that is totally acceptable,” Gordon said. “But even as someone who cares about COVID, there has to be a better way and there has got to be another way to relieve some of the pressure not just on students, but also on professors and educators.”