Campus reacts to spring semester changes

Provost Mary Schutten speaks with students at the "Pizza with a Professional" event on Aug. 20 near Rose Ponds.

Provost Mary Schutten announced in an email today that students will not receive a spring break during the Spring 2021 semester. Instead, there will be five "wellness days" of no classes throughout the semester.

In addition, classes will be fully online for the first week of the semester, Jan. 11-15. Starting the next week, Jan. 18, courses will shift to meet in person, online or Hy-Flex format. Exam week will be held May 3-7.

"To provide a semester that can promote wellness for all, faculty and students were in favor of wellness days throughout the semester to reduce virus transmission and give the entire CMU community chances to take a break throughout the semester," Schutten said. 

Students have expressed their frustrations of not having a spring break and their opinions on the new "wellness days."

Houghton Lake senior Madison Carpenter believes wellness days will be used as catch-up days during the semester.

"One day off here and there is basically used as a catch-up-on-work day, not an actual vacation from school," Carpenter said. "On spring break, you can basically spend at least five days enjoying no school."

Armada freshman Emma Harding mentioned the lack of spring break will make it harder for herself, and other students, to visit family.

"If they want to give the students a wellness day, they will give the students the opportunity to act responsibly and visit their loved ones," Harding said. "I have enough anxiety, and it’s not getting better being away from my family."

Student Government Association (SGA) President Katie Preblich said she will miss spring break. However, she knows the university is choosing the best option to protect students.

"Spring break is something folks look forward to all year and the mental impact of this change was a huge consideration," Preblich said. "The hope is that with the mental-wellness days, we will be able to have the break we need while also keeping our campus community safe."

The student government association were presented four options for the spring semester and voted on what they would prefer at their Sept. 21 meeting. The group voted on the same option selected by CMU. Preblich said she is unsure how much impact they had on the decision.

"I think the fact they asked for our feedback and selected the option we proposed does show the administration’s consideration of the student voice," Preblich said. 

According to Schutten, several other departments were also asked for their opinion and concerns for the spring semester. 

"We considered several options to continue safe learning experiences in the spring," Schutten said. "Before making a decision, President Davies and I consulted and received feedback from many across campus including student groups such as the SGA, the Emergency Management team, the president’s cabinet, faculty union leadership, Finance and Administrative Services, Student Affairs and Academic Advising."

Faculty Association President Matt Johnson was asked by Schutten to put together a list of things faculty members want for the spring semester. 

Johnson sent out a Google survey to faculty to gather information. He knew that they had an interest in eliminating spring break, so he made sure to gather those opinions.

“From their perspective, they didn’t want people traveling all over and bringing back the virus or spreading the virus in other places,” Johnson said.  

In addition, Johnson said that some of the other concerns from faculty members included starting when Mount Pleasant Public Schools do and having flexibility to do remote teaching.