Several large public universities in the Midwest have canceled spring break for 2021, citing fears that students who leave campus for a week or more to travel could spread the coronavirus.
At Kansas State University, the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, the start of the spring semester will be delayed until late January, with no major breaks taking place until classes conclude in May. The University of Nebraska is weighing plans to follow suit.
Many college students flocked to popular spring break destinations in March, saying that the virus wouldn’t stop them from partying. Photos and videos that emerged from Florida showed young people blithely cavorting on the sand, causing nationwide condemnation and prompting local officials to close down beaches and entertainment venues.
At Ohio State University, students will get a brief respite from coursework in the form of two single-day “instructional breaks” that take place midweek, theoretically reducing the likelihood that students choose to leave campus. But at the University of Wisconsin, which will eliminate spring break but give students time off for Passover and Easter, some faculty members are skeptical.
One professor predicted that undergraduates will simply trade Madison’s frigid climate for Florida if classes move online, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, student groups have expressed concerns that the lack of a break will exacerbate the stress that many students are under.
The university’s provost, John Karl Scholz, acknowledged that a 15-week semester with no break would be a “slog” but said that the plan was necessary, “given the vagaries of the pandemic,” according to the AP.
The Midwest has witnessed a surge of coronavirus cases in recent weeks as infections elsewhere have declined, with many outbreaks occurring in college towns. Over the past week, Wisconsin has seen a particularly troubling rise, with more than 1,000 new cases reported for several days in a row and a 41 percent increase in the rolling average. Infections are also climbing in Missouri, North Dakota and Nebraska.