A handful of San Diego State University students showed up on campus Wednesday to protest a decision from the university to cancel Spring Break for the 2021 school year.
Megan Allphin, a Sophomore in the College of Health and Human Services and the organizer of the protest, said Spring Break is necessary for the mental health of students.
"Spring Break the ideology of it is the vacation time, but I think the most important aspect of it is the mental health for students. Like, a 15 week semester not including a one-week consecutive days of break is a lot for students to carry," Allphin said.
SDSU Senate voted 44-28 with seven members abstaining Tuesday to give students four "rest and recovery" days interspersed throughout the Spring 2021 semester instead of the typical nine-day-long Spring Break.
A petition against the decision was created in the hours following, and had garnered more than 8,000 signatures by Wednesday morning.
The decision was made, in part, to prevent students from traveling and returning to San Diego during the nine-day period. Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten and dozens of faculty and students from the School of Public Health and other health programs backed the decision.
"The extended, traditional break encourages travel for students, increasing their risk of exposure when flying or driving across states, putting their families and the SDSU community upon arrival, at higher risk of contracting the virus," Wooten wrote in a letter to the Senate ahead of the meeting.
"I do see where they’re coming from in the aspect of a COVID spike but we are doing online school anyway so anywhere that you have WiFi you can do school so you can travel anyway,” Allphin said.
Allphin said she was one of two students allowed to speak at the meeting. She said there were hundreds of other students ready to voice their support for Spring Break but were not able to speak.
“It’s not a vacation problem, it’s a mental health problem,” she argued.
Wooten, in her letter to the Senate, agreed that the elimination of Spring Break could take a toll on the mental health of students but noted that it could take a worse toll on the mental health of the community if there is a new outbreak at SDSU, resulting in quarantines and prolonged restrictions on activities.
The SDSU Senate decided to give students four rest and recovery days that would act as days off; no instruction, assignments, exams or meetings would be held on those days. A proposed schedule has rest and recovery days slated on Feb. 12, March 8, March 30 and April 15, 2021.
COVID-19 cases among SDSU students skyrocketed in late August, days after the start of the fall 2020 semester. In the three months since, 1,603 cases have been connected to the school, the majority among students living off-campus, according to the latest data reported by SDSU Student Health Services on Nov. 23.
That number could be higher, though. In reporting that data, SDSU said "a possibility exists that not all cases are being reported to Student Health Services."
SDSU and the county have tried to curtail the case trend among students by canceling in-person classes, issuing stay-at-home orders for students and issuing cease-and-desist letters for suspected party houses.