With COVID-19 still on the horizon, JMU is looking ahead to a spring semester where the university and students will continue taking health and safety precautions. Wearing masks, taking classes online and using gallons of hand sanitizer have become standard practice.
However, Dukes have mixed feelings about JMU’s latest change to campus proceedings: canceling the weeklong break in the spring semester.
JMU has made a number of changes to its academic calendar in light of the impact of COVID-19. The spring semester will start Jan. 19, a week later than originally scheduled, and the routine weeklong spring break in March will no longer take place.
Instead, the semester will include two days during which university offices will remain open, but classes won’t meet. Classes won’t be held March 12 for a “university holiday,” and university offices will be closed.
The semester will end as planned in April, with spring exams running through the first full week of May.
In a mass email to the JMU community, the university said these adjustments are intended to help “curb the spread of COVID-19 caused by travel.”
The decision didn’t come as a shock to Gabby Nono, a sophomore political science major, who said she saw the change coming as early as the last academic year. JMU sent students home following spring break at the start of the coronavirus breakout, and that’s when she first speculated about the implications for this academic year.
She said she isn’t sure whether she approves of the decision or not because it’s not completely clear to her if the change will actually protect students.
“It’s all about safety, and I know for a fact people are still going to party,” Nono said.
As she pointed out, people chose to gather on Halloween.
“Students [that] weekend, people were going out and partying, going to frats and stuff, not wearing masks and all that,” Nono said.
Nono said she personally wouldn’t have traveled even if spring break had taken place according to the original schedule. She observed that people who chose to travel while on break wouldn’t have time to quarantine, which could result in potential safety concerns for other students. JMU’s decision to cancel spring break will decrease the probability of such instances.
On the whole, Nono said she sees safety as the priority.
“It’s really weird,” Nono said, “but I kinda do see where JMU is coming from.”
But the idea of missing out on spring break isn’t universally attractive to Dukes. Carlos Luna, an international transfer student and junior studying international affairs, said he doesn’t agree with JMU’s decision to cancel the break.
“I don’t feel like the students’ welfare is playing a big role in their decision making,” Luna said. “It kind of counters the message about caring about the students, professors [and] staff.”
Luna said he’s concerned about the effects of this decision for JMU professors, particularly as one of his professors has struggled throughout the pandemic.
“It doesn’t affect only students, in my opinion,” Luna said. “It affects everyone.”
On the other hand, senior geographic science major Seyler Robertson said the decision makes sense given the uncertain nature of current events.
“I don’t know if it’s a good decision or a bad decision,” Robertson said. “It’s so unprecedented; no one really knows the right decision.”
He said he supports the university asking students to stay in one place instead of letting them go away for spring break and then return to the university, since Dukes come from a variety of locations. Ultimately, Robertson said he trusts the school.
“We gotta do what we gotta do,” Robertson said.
Contact Maria Copeland at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts, and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.