U students support fall break idea

An MSA petition proposing a two-day fall break to alleviate student stress gains traction.

Raj Chaduvula

An extra break during fall semester might be coming to the University of Minnesota.
 
A group of Minnesota Student Association members wants the school’s administration to consider a pause during the fall semester in part to help students deal with stress.
 
Joelle Stangler, president of MSA, said the proposed two-day break would either extend Thanksgiving break or fall over the Minnesota Educator Academy break during mid-to-late October.
 
“We should have [a fall break] to take care of ourselves,” said Claire Breitenstein, the student who proposed the idea to MSA. She also serves on the University Senate.
 
She said the break is needed, pointing to the 29.3 percent of students who are unable to manage their stress levels according to Boynton Health Service’s 2013 College Student Health Survey.
 
Nearly a third of University students have reported they have been diagnosed with at least one mental condition during their lifetime, the survey found.
 
The survey also showed that about 50 percent of students were able to get the right amount of sleep to support their stress levels.
 
“The fall semester builds because it goes straight from Labor Day till Thanksgiving break,” Breitenstein said. 
 
Dylan Bergstrom, a mathematics junior, said a break would definitely help with academics and personal health.
 
“It’s insane to ask anyone to work for over 10 straight weeks without any sort of break,” Bergstrom said.
 
He said asking students to work for three straight months takes a toll on them.
 
“Breaks lead to de-stress and address effects of stress,” Stangler said. “We’ve talked to students who say they don’t have any downtime during the fall semester.”
 
According to MSA data, from 2009 to 2012 University students’ average spring semester GPA has been higher than in the fall. 
 
The report said the difference in average GPA between the two semesters doesn’t prove the lack of a fall break causes a lower GPA, but a fall break could still be a great
improvement toward higher fall GPAs.
 
“Even if it’s only a couple days, it would do wonders for our mental health and allow us to do better in our class,” Bergstrom said.
 
The University of Michigan and Ohio State University are among schools that have two days off in fall outside of the Thanksgiving holiday, according to MSA data.
 
University policy requires that semesters be at least 70 class days, which Stangler said poses problems. For example, starting the fall semester earlier to make room for a break causes conflicts with faculty and commuter parking in St. Paul and the State Fair, she said.
 
“Our next step is to create options for students and present it,” Breitenstein said. MSA has started a petition on Change.org, which had about 2,600 signers on Sunday.
 
“We hope to see some form of success by next year,” Stangler said.