The Easter break highlights two themes of the Boston College administration’s lack of action during the pandemic: First, students are not being given sufficient breaks, and second, reminders to follow COVID-19 guidelines and travel restrictions are becoming increasingly empty. In theory, a long week for Easter seems like it would provide the much-needed break for students. However, it is inadequate and falls short of giving students the time away from school they deserve.
The heightened burnout of BC students has been exacerbated by the absence of a true spring break and never-ending exams. As students continue to be overwhelmed with assignments, they look desperately for any excuse to go home or travel to give themselves this time away. This Easter break has given students this opportunity, and a majority of students have therefore chosen to travel during this time.
Even with a three-day weekend, many students, including Hannah Young, MCAS ‘21, still feel as if they can’t step away from campus and work. Young described how this break is still not giving her the relaxation she needs, saying, “I think a lot of professors aren't being as flexible, I know I have a ton of work this weekend. So, while I don't have class on Friday, I'm probably going to be doing work all day.”
This is the case for many students as a day without classes does not ensure a day without work.
Young suggested that a week with required attendance in classes where no work could be assigned would keep students on campus as well as provide a partial break from assignments. BC could have chosen to redesign breaks that would allow students to take time away from school but instead chose to have 14 straight weeks without any substantial break.
In addition, BC’s attempts to control student travel have done little to deter students from leaving campus. Sending the occasional email reminder urging students to stay on campus places all of the responsibility on the students and removes BC from taking any accountability. This trend has been consistent throughout the semester, as BC blames student activity for the rise in cases while keeping dining halls open and full of students. The most recent email reminding students to follow Massachusetts travel guidelines is no different as there is no action being taken by BC to control travel, test more frequently, or quarantine students.
There need to be more concrete rules and policies in place surrounding breaking COVID-19 guidelines. If BC actually wanted to protect student health and curb the spread of COVID-19, it would have implemented a more comprehensive and transparent travel policy. Requiring students to quarantine until their test results are received, just as is done at the beginning of the semester, would slow the spread of COVID-19 and combat some of the increased risk brought by travel.
It is unreasonable to expect every student to follow the administration’s suggestion towards travel. However, implementing a similar system to the Thanksgiving check-out process, in which students disclose their travel plans and are adequately tested afterward, would allow BC to better control the spread of COVID-19.
Prioritizing a Catholic holiday break over a mid-semester break demonstrates that the motivation behind this long weekend is not for students to take time away from schoolwork. Having a single Wednesday off did little to curb student fatigue, as most spent the day doing Wednesday's usual work. Although Zoom has allowed classes to function somewhat normally during the pandemic, it has also made it nearly impossible to have space and time away from homework. The repeated failures by BC’s administration to adequately ease student stress and have the normal break periods have only worsened student morale and productivity.
As school-induced stress continues to rise during the absence of breaks, pandemic fatigue increases as well. This combination of worry, stress, and time away from family is not creating an environment in which students can succeed. The mental and physical health of students is jeopardized by the repeated lack of action by BC’s administration.