The Gatepost Editorial: More than a physical health emergency

Earlier this week, University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Zimmerman announced changes to the Spring 2021 academic calendar at the All-University meeting.

One of the most significant calendar changes is the cancellation of spring break in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

We get it. With students leaving campus for a week to visit home or to go on anticipated trips, it would be challenging to contact trace and maintain our low COVID-19 positive cases. 

We agree with our administration’s decision to cancel spring break – and stand by the cancellation – but with this decision comes the need to acknowledge the potential repercussions that may emerge from not having a break – which would not only affect our physical health, but also our mental health. 

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, “The COVID-19 pandemic has alarming implications for individual and collective health and emotional and social functioning.” 

Emotional outcomes of the pandemic include “stress, depression, irritability, insomnia, fear, confusion, anger, frustration, boredom, and stigma associated with quarantine, some of which persisted after the quarantine was lifted,” according to the journal. 

In lieu of spring break, Zimmerman announced there would be an extra three-day weekend.

Giving students one Friday off is simply not enough time to recharge – especially for individuals struggling as a result of quarantine and strict social-distancing guidelines. Which, let’s be honest, is a vast majority of us.

Frankly, it’s insulting that our administration believes one day is an equal – and adequate – replacement for the typical week off. 

As college students, we are under an unparalleled amount of stress. From figuring out Zoom classes to studying for final exams at home, we rely on spring break to recover and rejuvenate our bodies and our minds in order to finish the year strong. 

We are not saying spring break needs to be reinstated. 

Instead, we are asking our administration to take into consideration the miniscule effect one singular day off in the middle of a semester would have on our community and our health. 

Is one Friday off – a day many students typically have off to begin with – really the right replacement for our expected week of rejuvenation?

Several Universities including Springfield College and the University of Colorado Boulder, have canceled their spring breaks and instead implemented several “mental health” days to provide the much-needed break students and faculty need. 

While we recognize that Springfield is a private college, and having additional days off may not be a possibility given the state-mandated number of class days, the administration needs to do more to support the community’s need for mental health resources. 

We believe our University needs to better prepare for the inevitable repercussions that will emerge from removing our much-needed break. 

Our University needs to ensure they are continuing to support the physical and mental health of its students and faculty. 

Our University needs to ensure they are providing resources for the Counseling Center to meet the demands of every student in need of mental health counseling. 

We are at a point where it cannot fall solely on our counselors’ shoulders to support our students’ emotional needs. 

Mental health is just as important as physical health. No matter what health precautions we need to take, the University needs to ensure our community’s emotional needs are met with the same level of care.

We understand why the University has prioritized physical health over mental health given the public health emergency that is the COVID-19 pandemic – it is their job to keep us safe. 

Our campus’ mental health emergency cannot be inadequately addressed – especially by our University’s leaders.