OU adds fall break to 2020-2021 academic calendar

Oakland University has approved a mid-October break for the fall 2020 semester. The fall break has been two years in the making and is in line with other Michigan universities like Grand Valley and the University of Michigan.

To Brittany Kleinschmidt, the OU Student Congress (OUSC) vice president when the fall break was proposed, the main objective was to protect the mental health of students.

“A lot of institutions have a fall break because studies have shown that October is essentially the most hellish time for a college student, especially for the younger students,” Kleinschmidt said. “What they are supposed to do is go from August to December without a break at all, except for a little bit of November, so they do not have a lot of time [away from class]. 

“For a lot of students that means they go to school every single day, and then they are studying, and then they might have work. This one to two days in October is a big thing in the sense that it could be the only one to two days a student has where they are not completely cramming, which can make or break someone’s mental health.”

While the idea for a fall break had been entertained by various OUSC administrations, the Ryan Fox administration — during which Kleinschmidt served as vice president — pursued the idea and submitted a proposal to the provost in the winter of 2019. Assistant Dean of Students Jessie Hurse was one faculty member Kleinschmidt mentioned who encouraged the idea for a fall break.

To make the proposal, OUSC worked with student governance organizations from across Michigan to obtain the data and other information needed to make their case.

“For this, we had extensive conversations with Dr. [David] Schwartz from the Counseling Center, we talked to every other university about it and about how they went about getting their fall break,” Kleinschmidt said. “Grand Valley had an entire committee designed to work with their administration. Central Michigan was also in the process of theirs. It was really just gathering as much information from the other institutions in Michigan.”

Once the plan was submitted and approved by the provost’s office, the only question that remained was where to place the new break.

“We just had to make decisions about when it would be and when it made sense,” Registrar Tricia Westergaard said.

The calendar for the 2019-2020 academic year were already complete at the time the proposal was approved, meaning the break had to wait until the 2020-2021 year.

OU is not the only school implementing a fall break for 2020. Michigan State has begun working on a “pilot” fall break centered around the elections in early November. Despite MSU’s aim with its break, there are no plans to do a similar election break at OU.

“Everything else is very standard,” Westergaard said. 

Even so, the new break should serve as a welcome rest for students.

“This could be the difference between a student going home for a weekend or not being able to at all,” Kleinschmidt said. “For a lot of students … they do not want to go home for the weekend because it is such a [long] drive. If they have an extra day, that could be an extra day spent with their family that they might not see for five months.”

Update: The Oakland Post mistakenly said “OU is not the only school implementing a fall break for 2021,” instead of 2020. The Oakland Post apologizes for the error and any confusion caused by it. The break will be from 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15 through Sunday, Oct. 18.