Boston College’s recent decision to cut out all breaks from the spring semester reveals just how little the university prioritizes the struggles and well-being of its students, faculty, and staff, especially versus monetary profit. Right now students at BC are overwhelmed to unprecedented degrees by coursework, limited social interaction, a global pandemic that continues to get worse, and a looming decision about Thanksgiving. Boston College recently decided to further fuel that by releasing the spring semester schedule for 2021.
The schedule, most notably, removes the typical week students would have off for spring break. Additionally, classes will be held on Holy Thursday after 4 p.m. and on Easter Monday. BC will have what the school calls a “Spring Mid-Week Break,” which gives students Wednesday, March 3rd off. This day, I’m sure we can imagine even months beforehand, will be spent playing catch-up on work, as it is flanked by normal school days on either side of it. The absence of a spring break indicates that students cannot be trusted with an extended break. The lack of faith in the student body to stay on campus for a full week break is understandable, but Boston College fails to currently acknowledge that students are still leaving campus on weekends, and some even leaving the state.
According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the vast majority of college students are experiencing significant levels of anxiety during the pandemic. Findings of the survey revealed that, of the 3,500 students sampled, 25% described feeling slightly anxious about Covid-19, 35% described feeling somewhat anxious, and 21% described feeling very anxious. Only 17% reported feeling not anxious, with 2% being unsure. Indicative of this study, students here at Boston College are feeling anxious as well.
The recent influx to our email inboxes of workshops for overwhelmed students seems merely performative in the wake of this spring schedule. The thought of being here from the end of January to mid-May can seem unfathomable, even for the least anxious students. We are having a hard enough time dealing with what is currently at hand. It is difficult to look ahead when there is so much currently weighing on the mind and demanding attention. Concern for one’s health, and the health of family and friends requires constant vigilance and caution in our everyday life. The back and forth between online and in-person classes, between campus and your dorm or apartment, is taxing. There is very little peace these days, and Boston College dumping this schedule on us did little to alleviate our negative emotions.
If Boston College truly values the physical safety of its students, as the elimination of the spring break suggests, then why did it bring students back to campus at all? And why continue to keep students on campus given the dramatic increase of cases here in Massachusetts and nationwide? Recently, Governor Baker tightened COVID-19 restrictions and suggested a statewide curfew of 10 P.M, cognizant of the increase in cases in the Commonwealth. It is easy to cynically connect the dots perhaps, and infer that Boston College brought us back here on campus so that they may collect tuition, room, and board fees which were increased by 3.69% to an astounding $75,422 for the current school year. This year, specifically, Boston College receives this money at the expense of its students’ mental health, and perhaps even while jeopardizing their physical health.
The CEO of NASPA, Kevin Kruger, noted that the pandemic has reinforced pre-existing inequalities in higher education, and has disproportionately impacted low-income, first-generation, Black and LGBTQ+ students. These vulnerable students make up significant portions of Boston College’s student workers, whether through dining services or elsewhere on campus. The absence of spring break unfairly requires student workers to cover more shifts because of the presence of the student body on campus. Additionally, students may be wondering: what will I do with the entire month of January off? Some students have unhealthy home environments, other students, like myself, depend on the stability of an income from a student job on campus. Montserrat students, again a group of which I am a part of, depend on services provided by the campus. Asking students to remain off-campus until Jan. 28th is blind to these students’ needs and situations.
I cannot speak to the experience of faculty or staff here, but I can imagine they are likewise overwhelmed by the circumstances and deserve a break. Professors have had to change their entire mode of teaching to accommodate the pandemic and alter expectations for the year. The staff has had to work hard, long hours, preparing and reinforcing safety guidelines on campus, in an effort to keep us safe. They deserve a break as much as students do.
While I don’t doubt there are well-intentioned individuals at Boston College who truly sought to bring students back on campus for good reasons, and keep them here for a benefit to the entire BC community, I cannot help but feel overlooked as a student in favor of monetary gain. Our college experiences have been ripped away from us, despite our tuition increase: no more game days, student group meetings and reflections canceled, classes moved to zoom, the list goes on. There are so many experiences we couldn’t have because of the pandemic. I doubt many would assert that we should have proceeded here as though the pandemic didn’t exist, that we should have the normal college experience despite the thousands dying each day in this country and the vulnerability of our fellow citizens. Further, I doubt many would argue that we should have a spring break so that we can vacation. I know I don’t. But I do know that we deserve more than what we have been given by this University. At the very least, we all deserve a break. One day is not enough.