In keeping with the abnormalities of this past year, UNC Charlotte’s “spring" break will occur only 3 weeks into the spring 2021 semester. Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber announced on Jan. 11 that the break would be moved from late March to Feb. 8-12, making UNC Charlotte the only university in the UNC System observing a spring break. The decision was made in deference to advice from the Student Government Association (SGA) and Mecklenburg County health officials.
“We heard overwhelmingly from SGA about the importance of maintaining a weeklong break for the student body during this upcoming semester,” Gaber wrote in her Jan. 11 announcement. “To honor that request in the safest possible way, the break will occur from Feb. 8-12, rather than March 29-April 3 as previously listed.”
UNC Charlotte also scrapped its earlier plans to move classes online after the late March break. Instead, the semester began remotely and will return to some in-person instruction on Feb. 22.
“In Mecklenburg County, the positivity rate has continually remained among the highest in the state and projections anticipate the peak of the virus in early February,” Gaber explained.
In a Faculty Council meeting on Jan. 28, Gaber added that the administration wanted to allot time for students and faculty to quarantine after spring break without “multiple pivoting” between entirely remote and partially in-person instruction. Thus, spring break was moved to the penultimate week of online instruction, allowing a week afterwards to quarantine before in-person classes.
“I recognize that it’s not ideal; I recognize that virtually no one would call that spring break,” conceded Gaber.
The decision was announced nine days before the beginning of the semester, when many professors had already finalized their syllabi. Faculty Council President Dr. Joel Avrin did not respond by presstime to questions about whether faculty were consulted about the earlier spring break.
Gaber, who has made a concerted effort to engage with student leaders since beginning her role as chancellor in July 2020, met with members of SGA in early December to discuss the spring calendar.
“Student leaders such as myself were extremely concerned about the prospect of a semester with no spring break, especially after the burnout, mental fatigue and mental health concerns that all arose from our fall schedule, and we advocated vigorously to keep it,” stated SGA Pro Tempore Dick Beekman in a post on Reddit. “It's my personal opinion that while having spring break so early in the semester is not ideal, a poorly timed break is far better than no break at all.”
According to Student Body President Tahlieah Sampson, the administration also considered removing spring break and replacing it with several “mental health days.” Student leaders pushed back, noting that UNC Charlotte students had experienced both a school shooting and a pandemic over the course of two years and needed a week-long break.
“SGA is advocating for the stay of spring break as much as we can (pushing hard!),” Sampson told the Niner Times in December. “Gaber and Bailey have done a great job listening to that concern and have been supporting that sentiment.”
Following spring break, on-campus residents and students and faculty with in-person classes will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test in conjunction with the return to some in-person instruction on Feb. 22. According to Provost Joan Lorden, 12% of classes will follow the traditional face-to-face format, and another 12% will be hybrid classes, with online and face-to-face components.
“The only thing that will change in the future is if we find Feb. 22 that cases have gone up,” said Gaber during the Faculty Council meeting.
“We’ve learned not to hold our breaths with this virus,” she added.