Written By: Chaya Gurkov
With less than a week of virtual learning underway, the Recalibration Period and shortening of spring break has been drawing backlash from faculty members and students across campus.
“As faculty and students were just beginning to adapt to the new system of online courses, I and many, if not most, of my colleagues think this is absolutely the wrong call,” said a history department professor in an email to the Vanguard who asked to remain anonymous.
The changes made to the distance-learning schedules arrived in CUNY members’ inboxes on March 24, and outlined the cancelation of classes from Friday, March 27 through today, Wednesday, April 1.
The next day another email arrived in which CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriquez emphasized the reason for this temporary pause: to allow more time for the schools to hand out laptops and devices to students who need them for virtual learning.
“If we do not pause, we would get too far into the semester, and students who have been without access to technology since March 19 would then have a tough time catching up and likely drop out of the semester,” wrote Rodriguez.
A biology professor explained that the news came as a harsh blow to many professors, but was more understandable now that the reason for the decision has been clarified.
“Just when we thought we had working systems, the university announced they would stop us,” wrote the professor. “In the absence of other information, we thought administrators would be telling us to do different things, based on their whims. So yes, there has been resistance to changing the schedule again for a reason that just seemed arbitrary.”
But to make up for the lost school days, another decision that cuts spring break short by seven days has some students up in arms.
A petition started by Courtney Hakimian with the title “Keep CUNY Spring Break” on Change.com has been making its rounds, asking students to sign to demand the original spring break be reinstated.
“With spring break being cut short considerably, students and faculty are being deprived of their one significant period of time off during the semester to relax and recoup. Considering this time of particular uncertainty and anxiety we are living in, a full and restful spring break is particularly important for CUNY students and staff,” the petition reads.
Adding more fuel to the fire is the fact that the new spring break dates, which run from April 8 till April 10, as opposed to the normal final date on April 17, cuts into religious holidays such as Easter and Passover.
“The presumption that observant students and staff must take off nearly a week of school as a result of this change is preposterous,” the petition stated. “Many faculty members are not so quick or lenient to provide fair opportunities to make up work or to allow students to work around the school schedule.”
The Petition currently has 1,600 signatures at press time.
Students have been vocal in support over WhatsApp. Sam L., who’s finishing up pre-med at Brooklyn College wrote, “It’s also about the principle of the matter that they’re not respecting our holiday. I can guarantee you they would have never done this if it were Christmas.”
But not all students agree that the new spring break dates means the end of the world. “Guys, it’s two days of missed work on Pesach total…like kids are truly missing weeks of work,” one junior majoring in psychology wrote.
In response to a call for students to spam the chancellor with emails in an effort to help keep spring break out of Passover, one Jewish student wrote on a BC Whatsapp chat, “You know the world doesn’t revolve around Jews right?”
But then there are students who remain undecided, or are simply confused about the whole situation. “They can probably extend school past May if this corona gets worse,” wrote another student. “If the class never gives a midterm and final on schedule to make up for the missed days then missing some spring break might not be bad or it might be extended semester? I don’t know, tough call.”