Spring semester schedule
Manchester’s spring schedule has changed due to the cancellation of spring break. Instead of a one-week break, there will be five one-day breaks throughout the semester.
Photo provided by MU

Students Respond to Spring Break Alterations

Mitchell Marks

If anyone wants to fly to Southwest Florida International Airport on March 20, senior environmental studies major Eric Edwards has a ticket for sale.

Edwards had scheduled a trip to Fort Myers over Manchester’s spring break with his two best friends—both graduated and taking time off from their careers—as an early celebration for his imminent graduation. After the school’s decision to spread spring break week into five one-day breaks throughout the spring semester, though, he will now be attending literature class during the week he was planning to drink cocktails on the beach.

“It was disappointing to see the president’s decision,” Edwards said, referencing Manchester President Dave McFadden’s Oct. 20 email outlining the school’s plan to disperse the original March 20- 28 spring break across five days throughout the spring semester. Edwards said he is now scrambling to find a way to get his money back on the plane ticket he had bought months in advance.

While he recognizes and respects that Manchester made the decision to protect the safety of students and staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he explained that he would have taken all necessary precautions during his trip. “Spring break for me wasn’t going to be a huge party around a bunch of people putting myself at risk,” Edwards said. “I just wanted the chance to clear my head for a week.”

The main thing running through his head now, Edwards explained, is confusion. “I was operating under the assumption that the academic calendar was set in stone, but that was probably naïve,” Edwards said, noting the constant uncertainty surrounding the state of the virus. Still, though, he wishes students could have been made aware of the decision sooner. “What am I supposed to do now?” he asks.

Many Manchester students are pondering that same question.

Students from out of state are particularly impacted by the spring break changes, according to junior sport management major Deion Gilmore. A native of Suwanee, Georgia, Gilmore said he was looking forward to travelling home for spring break after realizing his original plan to visit Las Vegas with friends was unsafe. He believes that many out-of-state and international students were probably planning similar trips home to see their families after being away at school for months.

Gilmore said he was sad the pandemic forced Manchester to change its spring break schedule. “It was very shocking,” he said.

Senior business management major P.J. Smith, on the other hand, was not surprised by the school’s decision. “I completely understand why they did it from the university’s perspective,” Smith said. “They’re trying to do what they can to keep us safe, and I respect that.”

Preserving campus safety was the main reason behind the spring break change. In his Oct. 20 email, President McFadden explained that the school hopes reducing travel will mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

While Smith recognized the school’s reasoning, he was still disappointed by the decision. He was planning to return home during spring break to Melbourne, Florida, where he had plans to celebrate an early Easter with his family. “I see why the school did it, but I can’t say I necessarily like it,” he said.

The fact this happened during his senior year was especially upsetting for Smith. “Spring break was supposed to be my last opportunity to not worry about anything,” he said. “It was my last hoorah before having to deal with the real world.”

Manchester’s spring break change will even impact students who were planning to stay on campus, according to sophomore biology-chemistry major Naomi Taddesse. An international student from Ethiopia, Taddesse was not planning to travel back home during spring break but was still looking forward to the week away from classes to have a mental rest and recoup in the middle of the semester. “Lord knows students need a break,” Taddesse said via email.

Making the best of the change will be important for students moving forward, Smith said. He explained that despite the initial disappointment, he is looking for new ways to take advantage of the days off throughout the semester. Gilmore agreed, explaining that he might travel home during the four-day Easter weekend. Taddesse will spend her days off catching up on sleep and doing homework, she said.

For Edwards, the worst part of Manchester’s decision was realizing that he may have missed his last chance to spend time with his friends before entering the work force. Because he will be starting his career after graduating in May, Edwards wanted to utilize spring break as one final week of carefree fun before being tied down with work.

Additionally, Edwards is worried about holding up mentally as the spring semester drags on. He explained that spring break is usually a chance to decompress and avoid getting stressed out from his classes and other responsibilities on campus. He worries the days off Manchester has implemented in its new schedule will not have the same impact as a week-long spring break. “It’s going to be really hard to stay sane during the spring semester,” Edwards said.

This year’s spring break will not be what Edwards was expecting, but he understands that nothing has been normal during the pandemic. “I wish we could have a spring break, but I’ll accept it and deal with it,” he said. “I’m fortunate to go to a school that cares about its students, so I’ll try to avoid complaining too much and focus on making the best of an unusual situation."