The fall 2020 semester at Brandeis was unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shift to partially remote learning. This new form of learning had many successes, but it also created some frustrations for students. In December, Jonathan Joasil ’22 and other students wrote an email to then-provost Lisa Lynch detailing their frustrations about the fall semester and provided suggestions for spring 2021. Later in December, Lynch emailed the Brandeis community about changes to the spring semester schedule, including additional break days.

The first complaint in the email regarded the lack of breaks during the fall semester. During the fall semester, this extended schedule caused feelings of stress and exhaustion from the heavy workload and increased screen time, according to Joasil. When the students first reached out to Lynch, there were four days of break scheduled for spring semester, due to the late start of classes in February, as opposed to two, week-long breaks in previous semesters. Joasil and the other students expressed that the addition of restorative days would allow students to deal with stress and disengagement from campus life without negatively affecting their academic performance, according to Joasil’s email to Lynch. 

The students' second issue with the academic calendar was about the extended time blocks for classes. Prior to remote learning, some classes were one hour and 20 minutes long, but have now increased to one hour and 30 minutes. In an email sent to the Brandeis community, Lynch specified that this extended class time is meant for students to take breaks during online classes and students taking in-person classes to confirm their Campus Passport portal status. The students explained that in the fall, they normally did not receive these breaks, and many professors used the full hour and 30 minutes to teach. Josail suggested that professors should include a mandatory 15 minute break during all classes. 

The University adjusted the spring semester calendar at the end of the fall. Lynch announced in a Dec. 11 email to students that an additional "wellness day" has been added on Tuesday, April 20, bringing the total number of days without classes. To address the second issue, the provost announced that the school deans will follow up with faculty throughout the semester to ensure that students are given 10-minute breaks during classes.