February 18, 2014

Students Conflicted Over February Break

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Students are divided over the benefit of Cornell’s first February break, with some viewing it as a helpful vacation from schoolwork while others thought it came too early in the semester.

The two days off from classes this week were part of a University-wide effort to alleviate stress by making changes to the Spring semester calendar, The Sun previously reported.

Catherine Thrasher-Carroll, mental health promotion coordinator at Gannett Health Services, said Cornell’s Council on Mental Health and Welfare had been concerned since 2004 that the spring semester calendar was “particularly challenging” for students.“I think this break came too early … It didn’t really do much except take the focus out of me.” — Adrian Wu ’16

“The only break [was] nearly two-thirds of the way through the semester,” Thrasher-Carroll said. “Council members encouraged … making adjustments to the academic calendar, such as including an additional break in the spring and pacing of exams that would have the potential for supporting students’ personal well-being and intellectual performance.”

Sharon Dittman, associate director of community relations at Gannett, said the break was a good opportunity for students to catch up on “life maintenance.”

“As with Fall Break, we expect that students use the February Break in a wide variety of ways — to connect with friends or family or even themselves, to catch up on sleep or homework [and] to enjoy winter instead of just enduring it,” Dittman said.

Corey Shapiro ’17 said February break was a “nice change of pace.”

“It was good to go back home and see family and friends,” he said. “Still, there’s always the thought of your work building up when you get back to school.”

Many students, including Eduardo Lacagnina ’17, spent the break at SnowJam, Cornell’s annual ski trip to Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec, Canada.

“It was definitely a good time to get out and not think about schoolwork,” Lacagnina said about SnowJam. “We got to experience different cultures and independent living. There were many different universities there, so we met a lot of people from other schools.”

However, not all students felt that the newly-added break was beneficial.

“I think this break came too early,” Adrian Wu ’16 said. “It didn’t really do much except take the focus out of me.”

Besides the addition of February Break, other schedule changes this year include reducing the number of instructional days from 70 to 69 and scheduling Spring Break two-thirds of the way through the spring semester, according to a statement made by Provost Kent Fuchs in September.

Dittman said the changes help with Cornell’s goal of fostering a healthy educational environment.

“This is how we build a caring community in which everyone has an opportunity to thrive,” Dittman said.