Katelynn Singleton, Campus Carrier staff writer
On Oct. 20, the Berry Academic Council released a revised Spring 2021 academic calendar. Now the semester will start on Jan. 19 and end on May 5. In addition to the three and a half month semester, there will also be a one-day Spring Break on March 10. The Academic Council is led by Provost Mary Boyd and comprised of a group of representatives from departments on campus as well as student representatives from SGA. In addition to reviewing new courses, majors and concentrations, they also review options for the following year’s academic calendar and then forward the recommendation to President Steve Briggs.
The process of creating an academic calendar is pretty straightforward. According to senior Max von Schmeling, the Vice President of Administration of SGA, Boyd sends out a list of options for the academic year and the members of the council provide feedback. After a few adjustments, the calendar is voted on and sent to Briggs for final approval. In almost every option provided to the council, the typical week-long spring break was reduced to one day.
“We feel the best way of doing that is not to have students leave campus for an extended period of time and come back again,” said Boyd.
The changes to the calendar partially spur from wanting to prevent a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases on campus. By reducing the possibility of a large number of students traveling off campus, the possibility of a spike is reduced. Boyd said that since college-age students often do not have symptoms when they have COVID-19, there was a potential for students to return to campus and be unknowingly sick.
David Slade, Associate Provost and Dean of Academic Services, says that the council wanted to reduce the potential mass exposure that would occur over the course of the semester. With the limited knowledge of what spring will look like regarding the virus, they wanted to try to create the safest possible environment on campus.
The new calendar lists Spring Break on Mar. 10 and will be referred to as a Spring Holiday. Von Schmeling says that he is a little concerned about how the lack of a break will affect students and staff. This semester has had only one official day off, with an additional day off following Tropical Storm Zeta. Von Schmeling says that student burnout has been a significant concern for this semester. Seeing as the spring semester only has two official days off, there is a general concern that students, faculty and staff will face burnout due to not being able to step back from academics to rejuvenate and finish the school year strong.
“It’s a hard year, and we all have to make sacrifices here and there so that we can stay at Berry,” said Von Schmeling.
In addition to having a shortened Spring Break, next semester will also start a week later, on Jan 19. Boyd said that if COVID-19 and the flu have a combined impact on the community, it would be likely to happen in January, so starting the semester later is the best option. A later start to the semester also would likely have an effect on students mental health and readiness. There would be nearly two months long break for students and staff to relax and prepare for the upcoming semester.
Classes for the semester end Apr. 27, and from Apr. 29 to May 5 students will take final exams. With the semester being close to three and a half months long, Slade is optimistic about the spring and is ready to have a “uniquely Berry kind of spring.” He acknowledges that students and staff are likely stressed, not just about the calendar but also regarding the pandemic.
“I think that we all need a lot of grace with one another” Slade said. A lot of patience with one another.”