(opinions) Burruss Hall

Burruss Hall, Sept. 28, 2016.

On Oct. 19, 2020, Virginia Tech announced its plans for the upcoming semester. The university confirmed that the spring semester “... will start and finish as originally planned…” but the traditional five-day long spring break in March will be canceled in favor of five days off spread across the entirety of the semester. There was an outcry across the student body. Furthermore, there is a change.org petition with over 3,000 signatures demanding that the university “Reinstate Spring Break at Virginia Tech.” The students who agreed with the move to alter spring break, if they exist, seemed fairly silent.

Taking away spring break from a student body that has already missed out on so much seems an awful lot like kicking a dog while it is down. 2020 has been, by almost all accounts, a terrible year. A global pandemic has infected the lives of almost every student at Virginia Tech. This is a year of sacrifice, and that is exactly what President Tim Sands was asking the student body to do when he announced the change from the traditional five-day long spring break. Moreover, can we really blame him? The university's plan makes sense. In order for a university to be recognized in the United States, it must follow guidelines laid out by the U.S. Department of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. One of these many guidelines dictates the number of days a university must hold classes. Adding a week off at either end of the semester would upset scheduling and would jeopardize the university’s accreditation. Furthermore, leaving spring break as is constitutes a very real health risk — look no further than Brady Sluder and his ill-fated interview with NBC news back in March. 

Mark Owczarski, assistant vice president for university relations, said in response to the protests, “We are deeply concerned with their [the students] health and the health of their loved ones and we hope that they [the students] will place that health at a higher level than, say, go to Cancun.” 

Furthermore, Mr. Owczarski reaffirmed that faculty have promised to not assign work to students over these breaks and his hope that, following the adherence to guidelines, the student body will be able to enjoy a traditional break. 

The COVID-19 pandemic demands, the same way any event of its magnitude does, that young people mature earlier than expected. Is it unfortunate that spring break is another casualty of COVID-19? Of course it is. However, the plan set forth by Tim Sands and the university protects against the chance that students leaving the university bubble will inadvertently infect people outside of it or bring the virus back on their return. While this chance is relatively low, it is expected that we as members of the Virginia Tech community should accept any means to eliminate it entirely. 

When students apply to the university, they are told that the university motto is “Ut Prosim,” “That I May Serve,” and are asked how they have served in the past. This is one of the times the university should call on its students to fulfill their promise to serve. To all students at Virginia Tech, the motto “Ut Prosim” should be more than just words. The student body is being asked to serve in this small way, and it is their duty to do so.