URBANA — The University of Illinois’ academic Senate approved canceling spring break and pushing back the start of the semester by a week.
At its meeting Monday, the Senate voted 129-13 to approve the new calendar, which also includes three days off throughout the spring semester.
The start of spring semester was pushed back from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25.
Spring break was originally scheduled from March 13-21.
The three days off will be Wednesday, Feb. 17; Wednesday, March 24; and Tuesday, April 13.
The semester will end at its usual time, with commencement on May 15.
“The fall data suggests that periods of extended non-instruction creates special vulnerabilities due to increases in travel,” chair Linda Moorhouse said.
“We know that travel is a risk to members of our community,” UI epidemiologist Rebecca Smith said.
Moorhouse said the late start “provides time in January for a staged return to campus for COVID testing and isolation protocols.”
The three days off were added for students’ wellness but were placed in the middle of the week to discourage travel over long weekends, Moorhouse said.
“We were also keenly aware of mental health concerns for our students, faculty and staff,” Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Kevin Pitts said. “The proposal attempts to balance the need to minimize and mitigate COVID spread while allowing for at least some breaks in instruction.”
Moorhouse said the provost’s office will make limited exemptions for certain clinical and experiential courses that have special attendance requirements.
As of Oct. 13, eight of the Big Ten universities had canceled spring break, Moorhouse said, adding that her committee unanimously recommended the new calendar only after much discussion.
“When this proposal was introduced to EPC, none of us were thrilled,” Moorhouse said.
But she said the calendar changes were “driven by the science and data that the university has collected through our Shield team and were made with much forethought, conversation and collaboration.”
“There is no doubt that this change will affect many of us in ways that are not ideal, but ultimately, EPC was convinced it is in the best interests of the institution to support this proposal,” Moorhouse said.
Chancellor Robert Jones said the university was planning to share the new calendar widely this morning.
“We recognize that this schedule isn’t everyone’s first choice, but I believe we are doing as much as possible to balance these competing interests,” Pitts said.