Augustana adjusts calendar year: a delayed j-term start and spring break cancelled


Molly Sweeney

In order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Augustana College announced on Oct. 12 their decision to delay the start of J-term one week, to delay the start of Spring semester one week and to cancel spring break. 
Dr. David Snowball, chair of the communication studies department, said that Augustana is attempting to be more cautious this year in the face of COVID.
“Thousands of college students last year went to beaches and a number of institutions experienced an increase in COVID after spring break. We don’t want to pivot in April to online learning due to a spread that is avoidable,” Snowball said. 
In another significant change from past years, Augustana is reconstructing how they go about on-campus housing during breaks, according to Michelle Mason, the assistant director of residential life.
“Students will be turning in their keys when they leave so then that way we can do a screening when they return. We’ll ask them questions similar to how it was in the beginning of the year,” Mason said. “Our break stay request form also went live today. It’s really important that students know that if they’re leaving for Thanksgiving to go anywhere, they need to not come back to campus at that point,” 
Greg Domski, Vice Chair of the Faculty Council, explains that faculty had been made aware that this year, in regard to J-term and spring semester, that they would need to be adjusted.
“[Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow] asked us to gauge the opinion of faculty at Augustana. The proposal that was adopted was the kind of middle pathway,” Domski said. 
Students and faculty alike have mixed feelings about this decision as they consider balancing campus safety during COVID and ensuring positive mental health. 
Junior Andrew Baxter believes that many students feel frustrated about how this year is shaping up. 
“I would say it’s really hard to be “Augie Strong” when the most fundamental part, which is the community, is not present here,” Baxter said. “Removing that week break, though it is a completely sensible decision with everything going on, is still really harmful to how people consider this school year.”
Augustana informed students of the calendar changes via email, which also may have contributed to the frustration regarding the changes to this year.  
“I just believe that the process of informing the student body of what’s going on, the procedures going on, was very poor. It was just dropped on us, suddenly there was no spring break rather than an ongoing conversation,” Baxter said. 
Although the relay of information could have been adjusted, everyone is trying to do their part overall to make this year run smoothly. 
“I think faculty tried to balance mental health vs the viral transmission in their choice. This scenario gives people some breathing room, it gives them a slightly longer winter break to recharge, to get themselves back together. I think it was a balancing act of emotional wellbeing with coronavirus risks,” Domski said. 
Snowball said that everyone is trying their best to deal with the situation.
“We can be more charitable to each other during this time,” Snowball said. “We’re trying to support each other, make good decisions and keep a shared community.”