Last fall, Texas A&M decided this semester’s standard, week-long Spring Break students and faculty are used to will be shortened to just one day, March 19. This decision makes sense from a public health perspective — after all, we are trying our best to limit the transmission of COVID-19. The possibility of thousands of students traveling across the country is at odds with the task of containing the coronavirus.
It's not a popular plan, but it's an understandable one.
To be clear, I don't support the decision to cancel Spring Break this semester. I am simply acknowledging the sentiment behind it. However, I believe there was a better alternative than reducing the entire break to just one day. I suggest going forward, regardless of whether we are in a pandemic or not, A&M should implement rest or wellness days to ease the burden that will surely come as the year goes on.
Students need Spring Break now more than ever, but I have made my peace knowing there’s no way it will happen. If there's one thing I have learned while attending this school, it's that to ask for the bare minimum is to ask for a lot. Last semester, the student body petitioned for the pass/fail option from the administration to help with the burnout and burdensome task of working during a pandemic. Instead of listening to the student body's worries, the administration refused the amended grading option. I don't understand the ruling because students had the option of pass/fail during the 2020 spring semester, and the pandemic only became worse as the year went on. Nevertheless, the administration refused to budge, and students were given the option of extended Q-drop deadlines as a safety net for their grades.
I suggest A&M schedule rest or wellness days every other week as a way to give students a break from the screen and energy to recharge. Furthermore, this schedule sees the students as actual human beings and not robots that can work continuously without pause. I suggest the days selected for the wellbeing of students should have no strings attached to them. There shouldn’t be any face-to-face, hybrid or online classes held during the day. In addition, there also shouldn’t be any exams or assignments due on that day. It should be a day to let students catch up or take a vital break.
Mental health breaks provide much-needed rest from schoolwork, and amid a pandemic, it's essential in keeping our mental health intact. I know I am not the only student who experienced severe burnout last semester, and I am sure I will feel the same this spring. Especially considering the latest Faculty Senate resolution opposing an increase in the number of Q-drops this semester. It would be nice to have a break to catch up on sleep, friends and my mental health.
I believe this suggestion is less stressful to the faculty as well. Professors and students both thrive when both parties are engaged in the material. If one party is barely hanging on for dear life, the entire relationship falls apart and the only thing thriving is frustration. The future academic calendars should have set mental health days to give professors an easier way to structure their syllabus. I admit that I fail to consider my professors’ mental health from my point of view as a student. I think mental health days will be beneficial in giving them a chance to recharge to continue teaching at a high level.
Wellness days also allow students to be more retentive during lectures because they have the freedom to take a break and breathe for a minute. Selfless service is one of our core values, and what is more selfless than being a helping hand in the most challenging of times? It should not take a pandemic to discuss the need for mental health breaks. Nevertheless, now that we’re here, we can’t go back to the way things were.
Ozioma Mgbahurike is an electrical engineering sophomore and opinion writer for The Battalion.