In lieu of a Spring Break for the Spring 2021 semester, Wheaton administration opted to offer students two break days, one on Mar. 10 and the second on April 30. In an email preceding the first break day, the Dean of Students office suggested that the day was intended to allow students the opportunity to take a moment to focus on themselves. The email continued, “The gift of time is one that enables you to disconnect, rest, focus on other areas of your life, engage in any other activities bring you joy and are of value to you,” and hoped that students would use the day to rejuvenate themselves for the intensity of mid-semester.
Mason Willix ’24 and Ben Goho ’24 presented a proposal to the Senate on November 10, 2020, that asked for the Senate to work with the administration to approve Mental Health Days for the Spring Semester. At the time, Willix and Goho were not in possession of all the facts surrounding the break days, as the Committee for Academic Standing was still in the process of selecting the dates. Willix and Goho did speak to the need for “a real day off,” placing the concept in contrast to MAP day, which still expected students to participate in events. During the discussion, Sophie Waters ’23 and Aba Lypps ’21 both emphasized their hope for the establishment of annual mental health break days, even when Wheaton resumed the traditional academic calendar. Waters also delved further into the concept of a “mental health day,” asking questions about accountability when it came to professors and their recognition of the day as a true break for the students. The discussion concluded with the decision to postpone the proposal, in the recognition of the fact that the administration was already working on the matter at hand.
Most students suggested dissatisfaction, expressing that they would have preferred more of a real break. “It was nice having one break day to reset but at the same time it’s a little insulting we can’t get like a long weekend to replace spring break,” said Sophie Dubois ’21. Renee Grubler ’22 agreed, saying, “I think that it was very clever of the school to not give us consecutive days off to but I’m also incredibly fatigued and I would like a real vacation.”
Some students also pointed out that their professors still expected them to continue to focus on academic work. Students spoke of assignments and tests due on the break day itself, while other students explained that they continued to work on homework that was due at around the same date.
“My professors were really chill about it and they didn’t make me submit anything on that day but I heard the opposite from many other students,” Grubler said.
“While I understand the decision to create a break day in the middle of the week, it simply isn’t enough to make a difference. Even if I did not have to attend zoom classes, I still had a significant amount of homework due the next day that I needed to continue to work on throughout the day,” said Mikaela Savarese ’22.
Ophelia McGrail ’23 expressed a similar statement, mentioning that they had spent the day doing homework for a statistics class. “I was able to see friends but we just did homework together,” they said. “It was helpful though to just have a whole day off to get stuff done even though I didn’t get to relax much. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one.”
“I personally found the break day itself very helpful because of how my student schedule is structured this semester, but I understand that was not the same experience that many of my peers had. It was refreshing to take a much-needed break from meetings, Senate in particular, but most students told me that they used that time to catch up on work rather than to rest. Many even had exams the next day. I’m of course looking forward to any time off that’s granted to me, but I think the administration needs to consider the burnout we are all facing and select days off with more intention. The days we’re given a break are arbitrary, which I think frustrates professors and students alike,” said Abby Cook ‘22.
“I had a quiz due on our day off that I missed because I assumed that it must have been due the day after. The professor was very understanding and let me submit the quiz a day late, so I’m not upset about the quiz really. I do think it’s ridiculous that the school assumes it can completely remove spring break and replace it with a single day. I didn’t like that the college sent out reminders telling us to relax on the break day. To drastically reduce the amount of time students have to focus on their own wellbeing and then try to coach them on how to cram all their wellness activities into one day feels pretty insulting. Everyone I know used that day to catch up on assignments, there just wasn’t the time to destress in any meaningful way,” said Oskar Mattes ’22.