Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: We need more ‘Wellness Days’ to keep students motivated and mentally healthy

Thanks to the pandemic, there will be no wild college spring break this year. For Boston University students, there will be no Spring Recess at all.

In its place, the University has given us two “Wellness Days,” in March, 13 days apart. Combined with holidays such as President’s Day and Patriots’ Day, these days intend to give students time to breathe once every four to six weeks.

The days are also placed in the middle of the week — not Monday or Friday — so there won’t be any long weekend trips to COVID-ville to worry about.

With the campus open and a new strain of the virus in the country, every precaution must be taken. If Spring Recess remained, students would have more freedom to travel, increasing the risk of contracting the virus and bringing it with them back to campus.

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

But the removal of Spring Recess may be less preventative than it appears.

Despite the University’s best efforts last semester, students still partied and knowingly broke COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The same people who have shown a disregard for COVID-19 safety and have broken the rules will continue to do so this semester — break or no break. If classes are all hybrid, with the option to attend completely virtually, what’s to stop them from leaving campus and travelling regardless?

Plus, if students are expected to focus on their studies and perform well academically in the midst of a nearly year-long pandemic, we need more from the administration. Two days off just isn’t enough.

In the pre-pandemic world, stress and mental health issues had already been a major concern for college students, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis.

As a result of COVID-19, 71 percent of college students indicated an increase in anxiety and stress, according to a Journal of Medical Internet Research study in September. The same survey found that, along with disruptions in health, lifestyle and social aspects of students’ lives, 82 percent of students also indicated academic-related stress due to the pandemic.

We can’t study and work every day, without our usual social activities, for four months straight — at least not without sacrificing our physical health, mental health or grades.

Wellness Days are also stand-alone days, and they don’t give students adequate time to rest or recuperate. Students will inevitably use these days to catch up on homework for the day after, unable to fully relax. Professors may also find a loophole for assigning more homework, regardless of what the University advised.

It’s not just the number, but also the quality of these days that are not enough.

Arguably, though, the University has given us more than we originally had. Winter break was a week longer than usual, which could compensate for the loss of Spring Recess. Adding on additional days off at this point in the semester would also require a major upheaval of class syllabi and professors’ schedules.

But the extra week was given to buffer the move-in period and not exactly designed to be an extra break. Winter break reached a plateau, meaning that extra time didn’t provide any further rest — just antsiness.

Breaks are only effective when students are faced with considerable stress and work — not when you have been at home with nothing to do for a month — which is why a few extra Wellness Days are crucial when sprinkled throughout the Spring semester.

As for rescheduling, classes aren’t always married to the syllabus. Far too often, students have heard professors casually say the class was behind schedule. Some professors even update their syllabus after the first week of class.

Furthermore, professors also deserve a break from teaching, grading and hosting office hours. They are just as susceptible to stress and mental exhaustion as students are. Would they not be glad for a change of pace?

At the very least, students should earn another three days off  to add up to the five weekdays we would’ve gotten from Spring Recess. Now more than ever, we need the extra mental health support from our school. We need not just resources and services and wellness tips, but also concrete time off so we can actually use those resources or even just meditate for 30 minutes without the stress of work distracting us.

A couple of professors have also already taken Spring Recess into their own hands by carving out a space in their own syllabus, which is considerate and helpful, but not universal.

If BU wants to make sure its students are staying safe and healthy, it must take into consideration our mental health and provide us with significant breaks that are comparable to, or even more supportive, than our absent Spring Recess.

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