As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed at the beginning of 2020, the university made the executive decision to send students home and switch to virtual classes in March. After many meetings prior to the start of fall semester 2020, the ONU Board of Trustees also made the decision to safely resume in-person education. They had developed an ‘Early Start, Early Finish’ academic calendar, where classes began on August 10, 2020 to end on November 20, 2020, with no class days off for holidays or fall breaks. Their decision according to President Dan DiBiasio’s email, “it has not been easy, it has not been without stress and strain, and it has not been without disruption to the way we normally deliver education and to how our students are accustomed to being engaged in their education”.
As a student, fall semester 2020 was tough and I think I can speak for most when I say that it was rough for everyone, especially with no breaks to really rest or even catch up.. In my opinion, it led to burnout. After the first month, all of my peers and I wished that ONU gave us at least one single break just to recover from endless exams, quizzes, homeworks, and projects. We felt as if professors were really cramming the full course within just the first few months. Burnout is real, more and more students are burning out as the semester goes on. It would have been nice if the university considered giving us a day just to breathe and relax from all the stress and anxiety. Eventually, the ONU Board of Trustees realized that and decided to give us class days off in February, March, and April for the spring semester 2021.
In-person classes began on January 19, 2021 to end on May 7, 2021 with class days off on February 18, March 10, and April 2 which are called “Mental Health Days.” Reading the email from the university, I was relieved that we were able to get 3 mental health days. However, looking further into the mental health days given, 2 out of the 3 days are not true mental health days because March 10 is the day where Honors Day is held, which has been given to us each year since Honors Day was established and April 2 is Good Friday, so we already have that day off. So honestly, the only true mental health day was in February.
The question that keeps going through my mind is “Does the University really care about students’ and faculty’s mental health or do they want to seem like they care?” Don’t get me wrong, 3 mental health days are better than none and the university has been doing very well keeping safe in-person instructions. But I just wish that the university decided on giving us class days off that were not already class days off, in my opinion nor random Tuesdays or Thursday, where most students don’t have classes. I understand that the university avoids giving students a long weekend off because they will most likely go home, but the university has to understand that some students may choose to go home anyway to get away from the stress on campus. It seems like students can’t go home, but there are still parties every weekend and campus events every week day. I feel like the school created these days to make it look like they care and are only trying to control the smallest bit of the problem.
So far, I’ve spent my mental health day in February studying for a physics exam on the following day and doing organic chemistry homework. Basically I didn’t have a mental health day because I still needed to prepare for assignments the next day. I’m sure many students were prepping for an exam or assignment or even trying to catch up on homework and papers. Recently, I’ve spent my mental health day in March going to honorary inductions for Honors’ Day and catching up on homework due this Friday. Again, not really taking a day off for myself when I really should.
Mental health days are supposed to be days for students and faculty to relax and take their mind off of all the stress, not days for students to catch up on homework nor faculty catching up on grading exams or papers. It’s not fair to give us 1 true mental health day and 2 non-mental health days, which we already have the day off from. What I’m saying is that everyone deserves at least a day to alleviate their minds from school, projects, and/or work and really focus on de-stressing.