On March 18, Boston University students rejoiced over the first “Wellness Day” of the semester: a chance to finally let loose, relax and taste some freedom.
Unfortunately, it was short-lived, and the day passed by in an unsatisfactory flash.
For many, the singular day off felt like a tease. It was a prescribed break that felt as though it did more harm than good, allowing students the chance to disrupt their momentum without enough time to actually recover from burnout. Students had to abruptly jump back into the thick of things on Friday.
Some students were given assignments to be due the next day — they either had to work on their day off, spend the day with lingering to-dos at the back of their minds or dedicate the following few days to an exhausting game of catch-up. The University even listed “do homework” as one of their suggested activities for the Wellness Day.
Has the concept of a day off flown over BU’s head? Or is the administration so disconnected from their student body that they don’t understand we work 24/7, and this “breathing room” should be time completely separate from our academic responsibilities?
It’s already incredibly difficult for students to stop working — it takes a conscious effort, powering off your computer and overriding your instincts. It certainly isn’t helped by an official recommendation to work.
Having experienced one unfulfilling Wellness Day, the knowledge that they granted us only one more is incredibly disheartening.
One could argue that at least we secured two days off. At the very least, BU listened and made an attempt to alleviate our stress.
However, the Wellness Days — which only came after students voiced their concerns — are insufficient and borderline performative. If Spring Recess was canceled to limit traveling and partying, it wasn’t very effective.
Students who wanted to travel for pleasure were still able to do so under Learn from Anywhere and have been doing so since the Fall. The University’s attempts at preventing students from leaving campus have proven feeble under the weak guidelines that are set in place.
Canceling Spring Recess is a drastic move to curb travel. Yet, that same thought and energy has not gone to protecting and supporting the mental health of students.
It has been established time and time again the pandemic is unprecedented, tiring and draining. If we can acknowledge the need for further support during a time of crisis, why are we only receiving the bare minimum?
BU has seen that taking away our break didn’t control student travel at all. Giving us breaks that are longer than a day won’t increase the risk of travel if people are doing so regardless. But, that would give students something we are all in dire need of: rest.
Though it’s a bit late in the game, the administration could instate additional Wellness Days — perhaps two or three in a row prior to the weekend.
The University also has the infrastructure and funding to go above and beyond, as evidenced by its testing centers and response to COVID-19. Not taking advantage of that capacity to provide adequate mental health support, especially during the anniversary month of the pandemic, demonstrates yet again a prioritization of public image and physical health over mental well-being.
Even if BU cannot immediately create better mental health resources or additional Wellness Days, it would do well to enforce a “no work due after Wellness Day” policy — or even no work due the week of the break — across colleges so we can fully enjoy our day off.
Beyond the issue of Wellness Days, interpersonal connection and communication has been exceedingly difficult to establish over Zoom. Students and professors alike are missing out on what used to be normal, casual interactions.
Thus, it would help if professors could start classes with a check-in or icebreaker — or for the University to implement more points of connection from adult leadership. We desperately need the mentorship and trusted relationships we typically find in advisors and teachers during in-person school years.
Furthermore, professors could give students days off outside of the official Wellness Days. This could benefit both parties — professors have no doubt been suffering from the effects of teaching to a screen just as much as students have from learning off one.
In general, there needs to be more empathy and flexibility from the people who represent our school and who we look up to for guidance. Longer, more difficult midterms — which have been commonly implemented due to open-note, online exams — and inflexible deadlines don’t reflect the understanding they claim to have.
Unfortunately, this is an issue that doesn’t just affect BU’s community. Harvard University students, for example, are facing the same crop of challenges with a handful of Wellness Days that do little to help.
It shouldn’t be on students to constantly pressure their college, call out institutions and enact change for the bare minimum. If all of the actions the University takes to help students only come after they have petitioned and pleaded, then those new implementations become insincere — especially when it happens so often at BU.
If students are able to ask for that support, then being ignored, dismissed or not given a sufficient response is damaging and disrespectful. To have a student body that has made it known their mental health has faltered under the weight of the pandemic and give them a mere two days off is an action of performatism and disregard.
With BU’s infrastructure, it could have created a much more creative and meaningful alternative to Spring Recess. Instead, we got scraps. We deserve more.