WSU calls off Spring Break week, aims to keep students in Pullman

PULLMAN, Wash. — For college students around the country, Spring Break is a time to take a breather, enjoy some nice weather and have fun—but in the upcoming Spring 2021 semester, Washington State University students won’t be having that luxury.

There are several changes to the spring semester in 2021, including starting the semester on January 19; in lieu of a Spring Break week, the university will instead set aside three weekdays when classes will not be taught. The reasoning behind it?—Safety.

There are several reasons Washington State University officials made the decisions to get rid of the week of Spring Break. One of the primary reasons is to keeps those students who would already be in Pullman, in Pullman.

“The concern there is that if students travel somewhere else and then come back they could potentially, if they are ill and aren’t aware of it, they could bring their illness to wherever they’re traveling to, or possibly pick up the virus wherever they are and and bring it back to the Pullman community,” said Phil Weiler, WSU’s VP of Marketing.

While Whitman County has seen a rise in the number of coronavirus cases during the past few months, WSU officials want to try to limit exposure and keep students, faculty and staff healthy.

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“The safety of our faculty, staff, and students is paramount,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “When you say that, that’s one thing, but your actions have to follow that.”

While next semester will mimic the current one with the virtual learning aspect, Weiler says the school will be feeling it in the pocketbook.

“Yeah it’s a huge financial hit for us,” Weiler admitted. “For example, we have our residence halls operating at 15-percent of total capacity, so very very few students who are living on campus. So, [the housing operation is] losing 85-percent of their revenue.”

Weiler says the silver lining of all this is that the university has been prepared for this type of scenario, with students going to class virtually—with three decades of online learning.

“We have the technology in place, staff whose job it is strictly to help faculty members take their curriculum and staff it for an online or virtual environment,” said Weiler.

Weiler also said that unless something drastic were to change soon, it is more likely than not that Spring Commencement will be virtual, just like it will be in December.

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