Talks begin on altering spring break as a result of pandemic

By Austin Ferguson 

Rider’s administration and chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) have begun talks to move or shorten the 2021 spring break, according to people present at the meeting.

At an Oct. 13 meeting of the University Academic Policy Committee (UAPC), it was presented to the committee that the AAUP and university administration were beginning to discuss making changes to the upcoming spring break, according to the chair of the UAPC Diane Campbell and SGA Vice President for Academic Affairs Liz O’Hara, a junior computer science major, who were both at the meeting. Members of the UAPC also include Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen and AAUP Contract Administrator and Chief Grievance Officer Jeff Halpern.

Campbell said that she believed the conversation started between the administration and the AAUP because of recent developments with the coronavirus in New Jersey. On Oct. 18, the state of New Jersey reported 1,279 new positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, the highest single-day increase since May.

“I think the reason why this all got started was because of what [administrators and AAUP] have seen in the news. And we all know what’s going on. It’s not getting better,” Campbell said.

The main concern that led to the discussions, according to O’Hara, was that an extended break would lead to an increase of students traveling, which could present health risks, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 2021. O’Hara said the focus was to “keep spring break, but in a way so that people aren’t traveling to places with high infection rates and then returning back to campus.”

The most notable possible change discussed was splitting spring break over two extended weekends, instead of an entire, consecutive week off, according to Campbell and O’Hara. The weekends would be split between March and April.

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According to Campbell, it is not in either party’s current interests to completely eliminate spring break, saying, “The whole idea is not to take a break away.”

Campbell noted that although the discussion was marked on the agenda, talks about changes to spring break were merely suggestions, given that the decision is ultimately up to an agreement between the administration and the AAUP. 

“The reason why it was on the agenda as [the] discussion is just to underline the fact that we were talking about it the way we would If we met at the watercooler as a representative group,” Campbell said. “Not as a body that had any control over it.”

The reason why the decision falls on administration and the AAUP, according to Campbell, is that the academic calendar is an agreed-upon segment of the contract between the two parties. Campbell said a memorandum of understanding is necessary to make a change to any of the dates originally agreed upon.

O’Hara and Campbell both said that pre-planned arrangements by students, staff and faculty were also a concern in altering the academic schedule.

O’Hara said that part of the discussion pointed toward “considering what happens if someone already made plans,” while Campbell said that traditionally, during spring break, there are “faculty members who do research and travel and stuff like that, though, the expectation is probably not so much this year.”

Caption: The university is hoping not to eliminate spring break but to alter it to mitigate health risks from traveling.

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