OPINION: Fall break deserves immediate action

Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan

Last week, Undergraduate Student Government President Austin Dunn announced that the fall break proposal — a crucial element of his presidential platform — may be implemented as early as the 2020-21 school year. Fall break would come in the form of a two-day break during the eighth week of the fall semester.

According to Dunn, the proposal passed through USG, Graduate Student Government and the Academic and Faculty Senates, in addition to receiving President C. L. Max Nikias’ support, but awaits implementation. The 2020-21 school year is the earliest that this proposal could be implemented, as the committee responsible for establishing academic calendars does so three years in advance. But unfortunately, this does nothing for current students, many of whom will have graduated by the time the proposal is in effect. Furthermore, three years is a long time to wait for change that students have been fighting five years for, rightfully citing mental health concerns.

“Without a consolidated midterm schedule and the absence of a break, students soon begin to feel overwhelmed,” Dunn told the Daily Trojan.

As USC’s academic calendar currently stands, between the Labor Day weekend in September and Thanksgiving break near the end of November, students have 56 instructional days without any break. Additionally, all classes have their own schedules and syllabi, which can become overwhelming by the middle of the semester. Dunn cited substantially higher demand for counseling services at the Engemann Student Health Center between weeks 8 and 10, well known to the student body as midterm season.

In recent years, USC has amplified its messaging around mindfulness and the importance of taking care of mental health. Indeed, studies like one conducted by eMenthe between 2013 and 2016 reveal how mental health can affect physical health. Others, like one by Columbia University’s National Center for Mental Health Checkups, demonstrate a correlation  between mental health and academic performance.

Among competitive, top-25 universities, USC has the longest academic semester, whereas schools like UC Berkeley, Georgetown University and Rice University each offer students at least three fewer days of instruction in the fall. Like other top-25 universities, USC affords its students quality educational resources and opportunities unique to elite institutions. But these resources and opportunities will be underutilized as students struggle from burnout, sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety.

Poor mental health and physical exhaustion can affect the rates at which students pass classes or get the grades they need to qualify for prestigious internships and opportunities. If not out of concern for student well-being, the University must at the very least recognize how not helping its students take care of themselves could affect its reputation as a networking empire in the long run.

All prior attempts to pass fall break proposals ultimately ended in failure, primarily due to hesitation from the Faculty Senate, which has claimed that students would “take advantage” of fall break rather than rest. This argument is particularly difficult to understand — be it through getting ahead or catching up on work, or resting, the goal of fall break is for students to take advantage of the time they have to take care of themselves.

In either case, the success of this particular proposal marks a crucial step in the right direction. Due to the University’s rigid policies for planning academic calendars, according to Dunn, it is all that student government can offer at this time. But put simply, mental health is worth making exceptions for. If student health truly is a priority for the University, then this proposal must be enacted ahead of the 2020-21 academic year. Students who are presently enrolled in the University and are grappling with anxiety and plain exhaustion deserve fall break beginning next year. USC must recognize that mental health is an immediate issue, and one worth making compromises for in order to help students.

Fall break may not be a cure-all solution to the nationwide epidemic of anxiety and mental health struggles on college campuses. USC must invest more in its health center to offer wider access and shorter waiting times for counseling and other health-related services, and open up dialogue with teaching faculty and students to learn about student needs and potential compromises to help them both. But without a doubt, offering students a pocket of time to recollect themselves and breathe is the first step.

10 replies
  1. Mom with Greek Son
    Mom with Greek Son says:

    I would be in favor of a few extra days off if they were dedicated to helping others in need and worship and not just an excuse to party and sleep late. My son, a double major with nearly perfect grades, has been working with the poor and impoverished in Central America during his breaks from school for the last three years. I wished more students gave back rather than take as it appears so many do these days. While some party it up at Coachella, others bring hope and dignity to poor families in need.

    As with many of the current opinion pieces in the DT, there seems to overwhelming sense of entitlement expressed over and over by what I assume are young women writers. It’s hard to tell if these are in fact women as traditional Christian names have taken a back seat to call your kid whatever you like that seems to be the norm these days.

    God Bless!

  2. Karryn
    Karryn says:

    As someone who is a non-traditional student, getting my Bachelor’s degree for the first time at 43 years old, with over 22 years experience across multiple industries, I can state that I emphatically agree with this article, and disagree with Thekatman’s opinion.
    A full-time job does not have assignments, presentations, homework, midterms, readings, exercises, career fair preparation, club activity expectations, sports team and coach expectations, in addition to managing work/life/exercise balance. Don’t even get me started if you have kids, pets or spouses. USC is a fantastic university, and I want to avail myself of the myriad resources and opportunities there. In order to do so, I need time. We all need the time. So while two days is not very much, it is important when you have so precious little in the first place.
    Secondly, a job accrues time off the longer you are with the company. So, it’s not unusual to be able to take time off here and there, for whatever reason, and knowing that you accrue that time off is a tremendous peace of mind for those unexpected emergencies, illnesses, or injuries that occur because Life Happens.
    Lastly, there has been a significant national reaction and THREAT to the well-being of so many students under the Trump Administration. False reports of a shooting, a threat to our immigrant students, hate crimes, etc. USC has been incredible in their quick and supportive response to this events, but the truth is, it’s a terribly stressful cultural environment for so many marginalized students.
    I for one would gladly add two or three days to the end of my semester in order to feel like I had a sustainable load of time to plan out my semester in a smart way.

  3. Paula Cannon
    Paula Cannon says:

    The views of the Faculty Senate are somewhat mischaracterized. We passed a resolution last year to support a Fall break. Thanks!
    Paula Cannon,
    Immediate Past President of the Academic Senate

  4. Thekatman
    Thekatman says:

    Amazing how little these kids understand the real world. You think you have it tough now? If you cannot handle taking a full course load then don’t sign up for too many courses. In the real world most companies don’t have a company holiday after New Years Day until Memorial Day. You don’t get Spring Break, Christmas Break in the normal corporate world.

    You can take a sick day at school and still complete the assignments if you do not have the emotional energy to go to classes. Just remember that 2 days off doesn’t reduce the umber of days of classes. Perhaps you did get 2 days off at the 8-10 week period, you’ll have to make the days up in Dec.

    • Lucasfilms
      Lucasfilms says:

      Friend, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Welcome to the real world, in which companies offer paid vacation leave. You’re a dumbass. Namaste

      • Thekatman
        Thekatman says:

        Your hateful is concerning and setting a bad example for someone who professes to be a USC student or alumni, and using the Lucasfilms moniker. Try using your name and stop hiding behind an avatar and fake moniker if you’re going to slam someone for having a opinion that differs from yours. You are the problem with this country. You live and breathe hate for anyone who has differing opinion. Isn’t that what Antifa is about? BLM, BAMN, the BEI groups like the New Black Panther Party, communism, marxism?

        Though Paul Cannon and I have differing opinions, doesn’t mean that we make foul language slurs at each other. As for the real world, university life is so much easier than the real world. Someday you’ll know about that. While in school you have one goal to achieve. Graduate with the best grades you can achieve and get a good job. School isn’t any harder today than it was 10, 20 40, 60 years ago, just different. If the load is too much for you guys, then take fewer classes. You want 2-3 days off mid-Fall? Fine, but know tha the work still has to be completed and that puts more work on you during the semester and might add those vacarion days to the end of the semester.

        As for paid vacations, yes we do get them, and most companies only give new employees no matter their experience level 210 paid vacation days for the first 3 years, and you earn those vacation days on an hourly basis per pay period. You don’t them all at once.

        Once in the work force you’ll come to realize that you don’t get 2-4 weeks off during the Christmas Break. We don’t get summers off. We don’t get Spring Break off. We don’t get Christmas Break off. We don’t all get the federal holidays off except for a few. You can’t call in sick just because you partied too much the night before. You have to work, not laze around the office, factory, studio, wherever you work, just because you’re lazy that day. .The real world is tough. University life is actually easy. You should enjoy your life at university, but know that when graduation is complete, the real life begins. Enjoy and Fight On.

        • Lucasfilms
          Lucasfilms says:

          I’m sorry to hear that you are employed in a position of such low status and have been so completely cowed by your “employer” (daddy?) that you can’t leave at will. I am neither a USC student nor an alumn. I work as a part-time mechanic and bicycle courier in Fullerton and my stepson graduated from ‘SC last spring. I really don’t see a problem with adjusting the fall schedule to give the kids a bit more time to relax.

          As for my moniker, you disgrace the feline world, Catboi.

          • Thekatman
            Thekatman says:

            You make my point 100% clear, that when liberals don’t have anything to say that’s positive and contributes to the conversation they resort to name calling. You have completely missed the message. That’s OK.

          • Lucasfilms
            Lucasfilms says:

            Point missed, catboi dissed, and my wife kissed. Today is like a novel’s pages. It’s in the books.

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