Oh, give me a break — Spring semester is too long

This is the final stretch. The beginning of the end. In a couple months, I will have completed another year of college (yay). However, as much as I’m pushing myself to make it to the finish line, I wonder if I will survive — especially considering spring semester doesn’t have as many days off as the fall.

Maybe with the exception of those who got to live it up in Cabo, spring break was not a break. I couldn’t fully savor the finite number of breaks I received as a college student because the dread from the work I was expected to complete never disappeared from my mind. Not to mention the sudden transition back makes it hard to adjust to classes and finding motivation feels even more difficult than before.

If you also feel that the light at the end of the tunnel is so far away, or that this semester is far too long, I want to assure you that it’s not you — it’s our academic calendar.

There are 73 instructional days in the spring semester, with 30 consecutive days that start from when students get back from spring break (Week 10) to the last week of classes (Week 15). However, with finals and study days included, there’s an expectation that students are studying, so students realistically spend even more time without any breaks. For 30 days, students persevere through the longest period of instruction of both semesters.

Spring semester not only feels harder than fall semester, it actually is. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the seasonal changes of winter makes January and February one of the highest depressing periods of the year because of seasonal affective disorder. On top of that, students don’t just have to worry about finishing classes; the end of the year means move-out day for those off-campus housing — inconveniently on the last day of finals on a random Thursday.

To say that spring semester can be really stress-inducing is an understatement.

A break between Week 10 and 15 could help students both academically and mentally. Any day will do. Extended study days or a replication of a two-day break for students to catch up with instruction — the possibilities are endless. 

Now, what’s the feasibility of this? What trade-offs need to be made? Where do we start to make this happen? To answer these questions, we turn to the success of what we know today as fall recess — a fairly young initiative that only has been in effect at USC for the last four years.

Conversations surrounding a fall recess date back to 2009, when the administration and the Undergraduate Student Government determined whether including Wednesday in Thanksgiving break or taking a fall recess somewhere between the first day of classes and Thanksgiving would be more favorable to the student body. After two years of lobbying, the extended Thanksgiving break passed.

However, students remained unsatisfied and a new push for fall recess began. Determining the perfect break to give students — the length and placement within the semester, and implementing it — was a process that would take another decade.

The proposal of a fall recess started by USG in 2014, passed in Fall 2017 and was implemented in Fall 2019. The success of the initiative took countless preliminary pollings and surveys, plus proposal rejections from the Academic and Faculty Senates and a collaboration with the Engemann Student Health Center in 2018. This allowed fall recess to come to life and shortened the period of instruction from Labor Day to Thanksgiving break from 56 days to 27 days. 

For the last two years, I used my spring break as an opportunity to build up my savings at my work-study job. Others use this coveted time to visit family or travel with friends, spending hours in either the car, train or on a plane and at the airport. Overall, the full week of spring break is impossible to maximize and more buffer time will only allow students to mentally decompress by adjusting back to instruction.

Of course, another break in the Spring is not a one-size-fits-all solution. I’m sure the same issues that arose in the original proposal of fall recess such as gaining approval from the Office of the Provost to change the academic calendar, balancing the different needs of break lengths and times for students and working with professors to adjust curriculum would once again need to be solved before approving extra time off.

However it is not impossible. Although we, the student body, may not reap the benefits for an initiative we conceived, the efforts of the past demonstrate the importance of patience and persistence. Advocacy for our own success and wellbeing is not a lost cause. We just need to start now.