Days after Spring Break decision, students continue to push back on and offline

A petition demanding spring break be reinstated has gathered over 12,000 signatures

A+small+group+of+students+marched+through+campus+in+protest+of+the+universitys+decision+to+eliminate+the+traditional+nine-day+spring+break.+

Brenden Tuccinardi

A small group of students marched through campus in protest of the university’s decision to eliminate the traditional nine-day spring break.

by Alexa Oslowski

Content Warning: mentions of extreme situations including death, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety

Since San Diego State’s University Senate decided on Dec. 1 to replace the traditional spring break with four “rest and recovery” days throughout the semester, students have continued to express their anger and disappointment with the decision online and on-campus. 

Almost immediately after the announcement spring break was canceled, mechanical engineering first-year Khanitha Soeung started an online petition to bring it back. The petition spread like wildfire among students on GroupMe, Twitter and Instagram garnering 10,000 signatures within 24 hours. At the time this article was written the petition had over 12,000 signatures. 

“If your students are telling you they don’t want this to happen and you proceed to go against them, what does that say about you as a university?” Soeung said. “Honestly with this decision, I have friends in high school who are applying to SDSU and now they’re telling me they don’t want to do it anymore. They’re pushing away future students.”

Soeung said the university’s response, or lack thereof, to students’ concerns and anger show that administrators are detached from the struggles and challenges students face, especially in regards to mental health. 

“I recently delivered a speech in front of President de la Torre and Dr. J Luke Wood during my Guardian Scholars Thanksgiving dinner and I emphasized mental health heavily because it hasn’t been an easy semester on my mental health,” Soeung said. “They don’t realize what they’re doing to us. We’re the ones going through everything firsthand and they just sit there and watch from a distance.”

Soeung also created a Google Form for students to share their feelings on the decision. The survey also asked participants to rank how satisfied they were with SDSU’s treatment and representation of students and faculty. 

The results were overwhelmingly negative for SDSU, Soeung said, with the majority of respondents strongly disagreeing with the university’s handling of the situation. 

Several students submitted anonymous comments detailing their personal struggles (both financial and psychological) with the pandemic and how the Senate decision impacts them. 

“The pandemic and SDSU tuition has already taken a heavy toll on my family’s income,” one student wrote. “The fact that I have to carry the burden of making their money worthwhile without even catching a break for one week will lead to an even steeper decline in my already deteriorating mental health.”

Another student wrote about how replacing a nine-day break with four separate days off might seem trivial but has the potential to compound other challenges. 

“I have already struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts due to COVID,” the student wrote. “This might seem small, but the sheer disrespect from SDSU alone is enough to destroy my mental health.”

Also among students’ primary complaints is that they deserve a break given the unprecedented adjustments they have had to make while learning in a virtual environment. This is especially true for international students, who must not only learn online but also from across the globe. That in itself produces unique challenges.  

“This fall semester has already been stressful because I’ve had to stay up from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. for classes because I’m an international student,” a student wrote. “Missing a nine-day break would without a doubt put me in a spiral and would result in me being burnt out. I feel that this is going to be a case for many students and that the overall quality of academics in SDSU would diminish as professors will also be burnt out.”

Offline, students are fighting back against the decision as well. 

On Dec. 2, a small in-person protest was held on campus, organized by kinesiology sophomore Megan Allphin. The group of about 5 students marched through campus starting at Hepner Hall and finishing at the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. They practiced physical distancing, brought hand sanitizer, wore masks and carried signs demanding the return of the nine-day break.  

“This is a mental health issue, not a vacation issue. With online school, we can go anywhere we want anytime we want. Nothing is really stopping us,” Allphin said. “It’s not fair to take away our nine days of rest and restoration and replace them with four days of ‘rest and recovery’. One of them actually falls on a Friday, and most students don’t even have school on Friday.”

In a statement, SDSU said university leaders expect all faculty to follow the no work, no assignment guidelines established by the proposal adopted by the Senate on Tuesday. However, according to a faculty member who is not in the Senate, professors have yet to receive any communication regarding the academic calendar change from the Division of Student Affairs or the Provost’s office. 

Senate Chair Wil Weston told The Daily Aztec that “it’s possible” for the senate to consider a revised proposal, though he would not make a firm commitment. 

Included here are the links to the Associated Students Your Voice Matters form, as well as the Change.org petition and Khanitha Soeung’s Student Input Google Form.

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