The IU administration announced wellness days would be added to the spring semester to give students an additional three days off throughout the spring, in a Dec. 4 email to students and parents.
Provost Lauren Robel gave no information in the email about wellness days other than students would not have to attend classes. However, an email with additional information sent to deans and faculty members shows stipulations not shared with students.Classes could have to add additional meeting times or lengthen class time to make up for the time lost due to wellness days, according to a memo sent out to faculty.
IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said the decision to add wellness days was made after listening to what students had to say about the fall semester. Everyone recognizes this semester was unlike any other and Robel realized this was something necessary for students' mental health, he said.
“We hope this is helpful, we think it will be, certainly it is something that is deserved and needed by students,” Carney said.
With no spring break, the wellness days were the best way to mitigate days off while keeping the spring session intact and similar to the fall semester, Carney said.
The memo sent by the administration to faculty and obtained by the Indiana Daily Student outlined the changes that had to be made to accommodate for these new days off. For students who are taking 15-week classes, the lost meetings will be dealt with by additional meeting opportunities within the semester, according to the memo.
According to the memo,13-week and possibly eight-week classes will need to have other accommodations to make up for the lost class days. Five minutes will be added to every class meeting in 13-week classes to make up the required 110 minutes to keep the class accredited.
If 13-week classes lose more than one meeting due to the wellness days, the memo states the registrar will add an additional class meeting. Fridays have the largest availability for replacement classes, and these meetings will be spread across 12 of the 13-week session, according to the memo. Many Kelley School of Business classes run for 13-weeks.
“It doesn’t feel like a fair solution, to say to students we're going to give you some days off, now let me stress you out about something else,” said Kelly Eskew, a professor in the Kelley School of Business.
The memo also states the number of replacement classes depend on the meeting pattern, for example, classes with meetings on Monday and Wednesday will only miss one meeting due to wellness days, but classes with meetings on Tuesday and Thursday will miss two meetings.
“I’m certain that the provost consulted with faculty and others, certainly with the registrar on this, and given that it’s a change that impacts small pockets of the calendar, not full weeks at a time, I don’t think that it was viewed as a major shift,” Carney said.
Steven Sanders, professor in the Maurer School of Law, was concerned students were not made aware of the whole situation and that the administration was not being totally candid with students. Sanders and Eskew both reported faculty who taught science classes were especially concerned due to lab sessions and the problems that could arise if a lab were to fall on a wellness day and get their classes off track.
“To just wave your hand and say we’re going to have these three days off, that could create real scheduling difficulties,” Sanders said.
According to the Constitution of the Bloomington Faculty, the campus faculty has legislative authority regarding the Bloomington academic calendar, with only such deviation from the university calendar made necessary by local circumstances.
Sanders and Eskew are both members of the Bloomington Faculty Council. Although an email was sent out to students and parents announcing the wellness days, many faculty members, including Sanders and Eskew, were not alerted about the plans until after the announcement. Both Sanders and Eskew said they learned of the wellness days plan from their colleagues rather than from the provost or the administration.
“I don’t think anyone thought through the unintended consequences of something like that,” Eskew said. “I just wish more faculty, with a wider variety of teaching experiences and modalities had been asked to give input on this.”
The wellness days plan was not brought before the faculty at the last BFC meeting of the semester, according to the meeting's agenda. As far as Sanders and Eskew are aware, the plan was never brought before the council during the fall semester. Robel’s email stated the plan was born out of feedback from students about the difficulty of the fall semester without as many breaks.
“I’m just not convinced the whole thing was handled well,” Sanders said. “Perfectly good motives, but it was weird the faculty were the last to find out about it.”
If the BFC had been able to discuss this matter with the administration, it would have given the faculty a chance to state their concerns or give alternative ideas, Sanders said.
“I think it was well-intentioned, but I wish there had been a robust consultation with a larger group of faculty,” Eskew said. “I think there are better ways we could have built in some de-stress time besides these random days off that take time out of the calendar for us.”
Eskew said much of her spring schedule is now changing, since she teaches 13-week classes. She is concerned about having enough time to complete major projects and possibly having to cut material from the class.
“What’s done is done so now it’s left to faculty who were the last to know to figure out how we’re going to arrange our courses to accommodate this, and we’ll do it, but I think we could have been trusted to show compassion to our students without these random wellness days,” Eskew said.