In an email to faculty, Provost Steve Herbert said, “Our mental health professionals and student life colleagues are seeing notable signs of increased stress and anxiety amongst our students.” As a result of this astute observation, Herbert asked faculty to give students a day off on Wednesday, March 3, if they could.
The “if they could” part is what gets me. Turns out, many faculty members were not willing to move major assignments or tests on that day and felt rather slighted by the sudden request. As one professor put it, “They told us, like, the day before.”
The administration’s flimsy appeal to faculty did little but create confusion and disappointment, at least for me. I still have my biggest midterm of the semester on that day. If they really cared about our mental health, why wouldn’t they schedule and coordinate breaks effectively and ahead of time?
“Our mental health professionals and student life colleagues are seeing notable signs of increased stress and anxiety amongst our students.”
One breadcrumb of a day off is not going to heal us. We need support. We need understanding from faculty and staff and not to be constantly inundated with ridiculous trainings, extra assignments or discussion posts as we creep towards the end of the semester or graduation.
As a senior, I find this period of flux extremely frustrating. I know that many of my sophomore and junior friends are feeling the same way. We are overwhelmed, overworked and sick of attending the same resume-writing workshop for three different classes.
One half-baked day off is simply not going to cut it. To be honest, I feel insulted.
I am not alone in these sentiments either. Many people still have midterms and exams on that day, causing heightened levels of stress and anxiety. And to make matters worse, our programs are being reshaped, professors are leaving and budgets are getting slashed, all without an ounce of transparency.
The Wednesday off is a weak attempt at appeasement at best. It’s a way of saying “Look! We care about mental health!” Let me be clear: Our mental health is important and should be considered seriously when scheduling days off and breaks. When I say days off, I mean legitimate and coordinated days off.
A recent study on college students’ mental health found that, out of nearly 200 students, 71% reported having anxiety and depressive thoughts. Furthermore, 91% reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, and 89% reported having difficulty concentrating.
Those numbers are overwhelming and align with my observations. Personally, I’m struggling to balance my course work and internship required for graduation. Every friend I have talked to is also barely staying afloat. Some are even forced to take their own mental health days when the pressure of life becomes too much to bear.
Taped to my computer in the newsroom, there is a Snapple bottle cap with a quote from Winston Churchill. It says, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” This quote has carried me through countless deadline nights until I groggily send the newspaper pages to a printer at 4 a.m., high-stress exams, failures, criticism, angry emails and nights spent in hospital waiting rooms. I have always kept going.
But goodness, am I ready for a break.