The Academic Senate voted in favor of instituting a two-day break in the eighth week of the fall semester on Wednesday.
The resolution will now be presented to President C. L. Max Nikias, Provost Michael Quick, Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry and Director of Campus Activities Gabriel Valenzuela. There is still no set time when this fall break could be integrated into the USC academic calendar.
According to the former Undergraduate Student Government President Edwin Saucedo, efforts to pass the resolution have been underway for several months. He said the passing of the resolution through the Academic Senate was the culmination of the work of many previous USG leaders who had also attempted to institute the break.
“This is a resolution that has gone through our student government for the last three or four years, so it’s something that’s been in the works since I remember arriving at USC,” Saucedo said. “Without the professors and the Academic Senate on board, this is not a possibility because the fall break does not just affect students, but professors teaching the students as well.”
In the period between Labor Day and Thanksgiving break, USC students have 56 consecutive instructional days, one of the longest among elite universities. The extended educational period has inflicted undue stress and anxiety on students.
“We were looking at the fact that USC is a top 25 school with a semester system, and it has the longest academic semester,” Saucedo said.
“Looking at the state of mental health on our campus, a lot of students struggle with stress and being able to juggle school and a social life and work and career opportunities. We wanted to model after the spring semester where we have continuous breaks.”
USG worked in conjunction with the Engemann Student Health Center to gather data on students. Counseling Services reported that appointments at the health center reach a semester-high between weeks 10 and 12, which does not align with the Center for Disease Control’s reported flu season.
“We’re looking at when are students the most stressed and frequenting the Health Center the most,” Saucedo said. “We saw a spike up in the eighth through 10th weeks. Choosing the eighth week allowed us to be proactive as opposed to reactive. Having a break in the 10th or 11th week might be too late to really solve the issue that we’re trying to get at.”
Saucedo credited the approval to the increased awareness of the importance of mental health on campus and greater conversation surrounding students’ well-being.
“Over the last couple of years, the conversation around mental health on campus has really changed,” Saucedo said. “Ideally, we want to continue providing more resources for our students. It’s OK to be stressed but also OK to ask for help.”