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Our view: Universities are wise to call off spring break
IN OUR VOICE

Our view: Universities are wise to call off spring break

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As we wrote last week, amid expulsions and suspensions at some universities for violations of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we don’t believe that college students should be severely punished for ordinary behavior on campus.

As for taking action to curtail off-campus behavior that could lead to further spread of the virus? That’s another matter.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Faculty Senate on Sept. 14 voted 140-7 on a revised spring 2021 calendar, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

It eliminates spring break in late March and early April and extends winter break by a week, starting classes on Jan. 25 and providing instructors with additional time to prepare for classes. Classes will still end on April 30.

The idea behind eliminating the break midway through the semester is to discourage long-distance travel where students and employees could pick up the virus elsewhere and bring it back to campus. Spring break to warm-weather destinations — namely, the beaches of Florida, Texas and other Gulf Coast locations — has also been known for excessive partying. Alcohol consumption is known for lowering inhibitions during non-pandemic times; do we really think young people are going to keep masks on and maintain 6 feet of social distancing on a sunny beach where the beer is flowing freely?

UW-Madison leaders floated the idea in late August to the University Committee. Members seemed generally supportive of the changes proposed by Provost John Karl Scholz.

“It’s one step we can take proactively to prevent the spread of the virus this spring,” University Committee chairwoman Kirsten Wolf said on Sept. 14.

Other Big Ten universities, such as Purdue and Ohio State, have also stripped next semester’s calendar of spring break.

The decision to eliminate spring break is independent of how classes will be delivered next semester, officials said. A break in classes would have encouraged people to travel regardless of whether classes are online or in person.

UW-Madison officials are still developing plans for the spring semester, and they have said how the first few weeks play out this fall will inform those plans.

As we wait for a return to normal, heading off clear threats to stopping the spread is the right course of action. We urge other college and universities to follow the lead of their Big Ten counterparts and eliminate spring break 2021.

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