What seems to be a never-ending pandemic has taken away any sense of normalcy for college students. IU students have missed out on traditional rites of passage like an in-person welcome week and the induction ceremony for first year students. IU has added another item onto students’ list of grievances — no spring break.
IU Provost Lauren Robel announced in a statement Dec. 4, 2020 that three wellness days — Feb. 16, March 24 and April 22 — would replace a full spring break. The wellness days apply to both undergraduate and graduate students — with the exception of law students — and there will be no classes on these three days.
Implementing three seemi ngly-random days during the spring semester when students do not have any classes, but will still have classwork due that week, does not seem to provide students with a break at all. These so-called wellness days are an ineffective alternative to an actual spring break.
As a first year college student myself, this academic year has been anything but easy. Going through a fall semester without any breaks and then a nearly two month long winter break away from campus was immensely stressful.
IU canceled spring break for this academic year to minimize the chances of students traveling out of state and returning back to campus, curbing the risks of an increase in COVID-19 infection rates. In the university’s defense, this seems like a logical way to prevent students from engaging in irresponsible vacationing during these dangerous times.
So why not give students a week off on campus instead?
During the weeks that these three days take place, students will still have classwork due and may very well be using those days to get caught up on their assignments. I, for one, will be spending those days on class projects and homework. If the university had kept spring break but told students to stay on campus during that week, and continued mandatory COVID-19 testing, it would have been a more effective way to allow students to relax while also avoiding an increase in infection rates.
Kierra Compton, a first year student majoring in media with a concentration in cinema and media studies, believes that these wellness days aren’t different from any other day in college.
“I don’t really see a difference between wellness days and weekends,” Compton said. “I’ll just be working on piles of homework like any other Saturday or Sunday.”
Additionally, these seemingly-randomly placed wellness days could create myriad scheduling issues for faculty. Professors may have to hold additional classes to make up for this lost time, which in turn will actually cause students to have more work and stress.
The stress of the pandemic has made it even more apparent that students are in need of an actual break during the semester. While IU has to balance many different responsibilities during this time, it is still important to prioritize the mental well-being of their students in a legitimate way. Wellness days are an attempt to help with mental health issues, but they are not enough.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect that law students do not have wellness days.
Rama Sardar (she/her) is a freshman majoring in media with a concentration in film. She aspires to be a screenwriter and film director.