SDSU students in uproar after faculty cancels spring break
Professors say the change was need to help prevent spread of COVID-19
San Diego State University students showed a can-do spirit when they were told to quickly move out of their dorms last March due to the coronavirus.
They grudgingly said OK when they learned that most of their classes were being shifted online.
And they complained in a respectful way when commencement was postponed in May, then moved to December, then canceled.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a stay-at-home order affecting most of California.
But SDSU apparently went too far this week when its University Senate voted to cancel spring break to help minimize the spread of the virus at a school that has reported more student infections than any other college or university in California.
The faculty decided on Tuesday that instead of giving students a traditional week-long break in March it will give them four “rest and recovery” days that will be spread out during the spring semester. Their “break” also will include César Chávez Day, which is already a holiday.
The reaction was immediate, blunt and in some cases profane.
Some of the estimated 700 students who watched the Senate make its decision on a Zoom broadcast began using abusive language in the live chat, and a few broke into audio feed with insults before they were cut off.
The students later took to the digital ramparts, circulating a Change.org protest petition online that had been signed by nearly 12,000 people through 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Some also attached messages, including one that reads, “SDSU y’all some money hungry gremlins, if you guys are gonna raise my tuition I want my spring break.”
The Senate’s action isn’t unique. Many large state schools have already canceled spring break, including the University of Michigan, the University of Kentucky and University of Florida.
The blowback seemed totally off-key to Peter Herman, a SDSU literature professor who is not a member of the Senate.
“Was it the Ramones or the Beastie Boys who said, ‘You’ve got to fight for the right to parrr-tay?’” asked Herman (it was the Beastie Boys). “That’s the mood students are in.
“But we’re trying to save lives. This is a pandemic! I can’t believe the solipsism, the childishness, the immaturity, the narcissism of some of our students. It’s mind-boggling.”
The student anger didn’t surprise Brenden Tuccinardi, editor-in-chief of the Daily Aztec, the campus newspaper.
“Spring break can seem kind of trivial, but many students feel like the university ignores their voices and wasn’t even willing to provide a compromise on this,” Tuccinardi said.
The Daily Aztec added in an editorial: “A traditional Spring Break is like an oasis in the middle of a 16-week desert for students and faculty. It can be life-saving and regenerative.”
That sort of thinking is not embraced by Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, director of SDSU’s Institute for Public Health.
“While (spring break) might be fun and entertaining at the time, we’re talking about real consequences to real people in real communities afterward,” McDaniels-Davidson said at the Senate meeting.
Christian Holt, president of the university’s Associated Students organization, wasn’t buying it.
“Justifying an alternative spring break proposal that has two, three-day weekends in the name of public health is buying into the agenda of scapegoating universities and university students for the county’s, state’s and country’s lack of control over a global pandemic,” Holt said during the meeting.
But students also have come under criticism from their neighbors in College Area, who point that the fact that at least 1,711 students have become infected with the virus during the fall infections. Health officials say many of the infections have occurred because of the interaction of students at the many parties that occur in College Area, which adjoins campus.
During a COVID-19 outbreak in September, SDSU confined residential students to their dorms, and it temporarily suspended the limited amount of in-class teaching it was doing.
In late October, the county sent cease-and-desist letters to eight College Area homes where it says large Halloween weekend gatherings were planned in “blatant violation” of state public health orders.
Six of the homes are described in the notices as San Diego State University fraternity and sorority houses.
“I understand why the Senate made its decision on spring break,” said Devin Whatley, an SDSU senior who studies journalism. “But you have to understand that students are frustrated and they are tired of taking classes on Zoom. They just want to get away from the pandemic.”
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