Written by Kristi Rolf
One year ago, the Roanoke College community was reeling from the difficult decision made to transition to online-learning as the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep across the U.S. The fall 2020 semester made history by operating in a digital environment. Additionally, administrators decided to accelerate the semester and eliminate fall break to allow students to return home before the holidays. Maroons persevered, but the semester was not without its challenges. When midterms passed and classes continued without a break, my peers and I struggled to persist through the routine of Zoom calls and homework. Burnout was felt by students and faculty alike.
After experiencing these difficulties, I was relieved the administration tried to curb these negative effects for the spring semester. The Roanoke College News release on Oct. 10 offered some hope by stating that, “The revised Spring 2021 calendar includes days where faculty will give students breaks from classes through the semester.”
Upon further examination, I was surprised to learn that the timing of these days would be at the discretion of individual professors, meaning they can choose any three days throughout the semester to not hold class. It doesn’t take long to realize that this system will not give students entire days without classes, but only an hour or two scattered throughout the semester. Professor Giuliana Chapman of the Modern Languages Department noted that this system allowed her to “choose the timing to work best within the pace of my course.”
However, she shared concern for her students, saying, “It is certainly nice to have a little breathing room in your day, but it means that students are not receiving the kind of full-day, restorative break that I think would have been most helpful.”
It is understandable that the college does not want to encourage traveling off-campus to limit potential exposure to COVID-19, and for this reason any traditional break is ill-advised. However, the “break days” that the administration has instituted feel like an afterthought, an ineffective attempt to ameliorate the stress induced by the previous semester. I anticipate that this semester will be just as stressful as the last despite the adjustments to the calendar.