Shemar Toussaint, a freshman theater major, started an online petition to convince the university to allow for one day off in the name of mental health and relaxation.
Toussaint’s petition was created last week in response to the Board of Regents’ decision to eliminate spring break this year.
“It just felt like so much more work that was pushed on us. And like with that, it gave me so much stress,” Toussaint said. “It was to the point where I couldn't even get out of bed because I was so, so stressed out.”
So far, the petition has received over 2,200 signatures. Along with their signatures, many students added comments to explain why they signed.
“Online class is more demanding than in-person and going straight through the semester really adds to that stress,” Rogan Maxwell commented.
“Without a spring break, students will really start feeling the pressure and stress of this semester. I think a mental health day would show students that the university cares and wants them to prioritize their mental health. I would personally benefit from a single day break,” Abby Johnson commented. “I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I promise it could go a long way. Not just for me, but my friends, and my classmates.”
Before deciding to cancel spring break, the Board of Regents considered the mental and emotional health of students, while also taking into account the fact that some would choose to travel to well-known spring break locations that can be a breeding ground for spreading the virus, according to Leslie Reed, public affairs director of the Office of University Communication.
“The university very much appreciates all that students are going through this year. It has been very concentrated to go through and work through the semester, 14 weeks without a break,” she said.
Reed said that the board assumed students would travel over winter break and wanted to give them time to quarantine as needed before coming back to campus for the spring semester.
The Faculty Senate decided to adopt a resolution to advise instructors on how to proceed with the semester. The resolution was approved on Dec. 1, 2020, and states:
“Possible curricular adjustments may include one or some combination of the following recommended accommodations:
Up to four ‘Reading Days’ interspersed throughout the semester to encourage course reading, for asynchronous assignments, for group discussion, or for creative assignments and project work, etc.
A week-long ‘Test Holiday’ (recommend the week of March 15-19 after the Midterm) when class meets but no major quizzes or projects are due.
Increasing quiz or test retake or grade replacement opportunities.
Other activities at the discretion of the instructor.”
These adjustments were optional and gave professors the freedom to adjust their curriculum based on the needs of their students. Reed said students should speak with their professors if they feel overwhelmed, and that professors will likely be accommodating so long as they communicate.
“It’s time that we start having a huge talk about mental health and how much it is important to teenagers, young adults, especially during college,” Toussaint said.
*This story was updated Monday, March 15, at 4:24 p.m. to correct an attribution from the Board of Regents to the Faculty Senate.