EDITORIAL: Students deserve more than Wellness Days

Monroe senior Hannah Seccia works on computer science homework, Feb. 8, in a Pearce Hall computer lab. She said school work is easier with campus being open to students.

After two Wellness Days, many Central Michigan University students have concluded that Wellness Days are anything but “well.”

Classwork is beginning to pile up and deadlines are approaching. In response, students are beginning to look for a week-long break - not a day off.

The idea to replace Spring Break was a good one in theory, but Wellness Days are not providing the recess we are agonizing for.

Truth be told, Wellness Days are anything but a break from classwork. This was the No. 1 concern of students when the concept of Wellness Days was first introduced to replace our traditional Spring Break. We knew Wellness Days would be useless unless the time was spent away from stressors like daily classwork, projects and meetings. 

These short breaks are exactly what we warned they might be -- a dedicated 24 hours to catch up on work instead of quieting our minds, recharging and relaxing. Students are not being provided an opportunity to focus on their mental and physical health this spring.

With nearly all students either at home or taking online/asynchronous classes, Wellness Days are nothing more than another workday. 

If administrators wanted to help students they would've thought about implementing a plan similar to the shortened, 14-week fall semester. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

One of the reasons administrators wanted to eliminate Spring Break was to prohibit the spread of COVID-19 and help safeguard the community around us. It's a reasonable, but misguided idea. 

Nothing is going to stop some students from creating their own, "unofficial" Spring Break. Just wait and see. Soon, social media will be flooded with posts by students vacationing for a week somewhere warm, especially since in-class, face-to-face attendance is not required.

Until the weather warms up and COVID-19 cases continue to fall, there's not much for students to do on Wellness Days. There are some scheduled activities – and we appreciate the effort – but it's too little too late. Yes, there are university events to attend – but most of them are online. Who wants to spend a Wellness Day behind a screen or in another meeting?

There are a few good things that Wellness Days do provide. Those that are scheduled for Friday and Monday provide students with a long weekend. That's something.  

However, the next two Wellness Days are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. What are students to make of a pause mid-week?

There was no way students were getting a week-long break this semester. We had very little say in regard to what was going to be done. At the least, students to should have been able to help schedule Wellness Days for their own benefit. For example, a Wellness Day scheduled the Monday after the Super Bowl would have been appreciated and felt purposeful to students.

Instead, students are about to embark on a stretch of ten weeks without a meaningful break. The mental health benefits of a week-long should have been more strongly considered when making a change to the spring schedule. 

Instead, students are about to embark on a stretch that will probably be remembered as the worst part of our time at CMU. After 10 weeks without a meaningful break, we might end up feeling physically healthy – and helping prevent a COVID-19 outbreak is certainly important. But, it doesn't feel like administrators considered the impact that losing Spring Break will have on our mental health.  

Seniors, this is going to be a grind until what will likely be your "virtual commencement." Just consider losing your last Spring Break as a final insult in what has become a year of lost opportunities and stolen memories.  

For juniors, sophomores and freshmen, all we can say is better luck next year.  

The university should have trusted students and faculty to help make the right choice for the spring semester. Now, we are stuck with a decision that will have little impact on the people who made the choice to implement Wellness Days.

Hopefully, CMU chooses to do better by its students next time.