Who is actually getting to take advantage of the Wellness Day?
On March 17, Dean Dorothy Hodgson sent an email out to the Brandeis community that read, “I have joined Provost Carol Fierke and the other academic deans to encourage our faculty to consider a ‘Wellness Day’ on Friday, March 25th, and either cancel (or reschedule) their classes or use class time to promote a sense of belonging.” While this Wellness Day has been planned for a while, first announced on March 7 email from the Student Union, classes being canceled was a new addition.
While professors may be “encouraged” to cancel class, it seems like many are choosing not to. Among The Brandeis Hoot Editorial Board, very few members have Friday classes canceled. The largest reasoning for continuing to have class on Friday has been a necessity to stay on track with the syllabus. Canceling a class so late in the semester doesn’t allow for wiggle room in order to squeeze in all the content before the end of the term. As it is, many of our professors are behind the syllabus, making an unplanned obstruction critically damaging to lesson plans.
This may be understandable, but it’s endlessly frustrating. Students are burnt out, and would definitely appreciate celebrating the Wellness Day. March is the longest stretch of this semester without a break, as both February and April have entire weeks off. Last year, when these week-long breaks were not offered to students, Brandeis factored in “Wellness Days” in order to allow students to have a chance to unwind amidst midterm season. This year, however, no such days were originally factored in, other than our typical breaks.
Regularly scheduled breaks making a return is exciting, another check on the list of “returning to normal.” But, this is still not a typical semester. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, actively worsening students’ mental health. Additionally, even if the pandemic was completely gone, the trauma would not be that quickly erased. We have been dealing with this for two years; as a community, we’ve felt the loneliness of quarantine, the hurt of losing family members and the unpleasantness of actually having COVID-19.
Factoring in more breaks will only help the Brandeis community in the future. We understand that each class is precious, but so is students’ well-being. We appreciate the attempt to give Brandeisians a Wellness Day. The activities planned by the Student Union—like free boba and a carnival—are appealing. We just wish that we could attend.
Certain lucky individuals will get go, those with no Friday classes or professors who were nice enough to cancel. But, many will be trapped in class as their friends have fun.
On top of that, to no fault of the Student Union, COVID-19 is ripping through the Brandeis community. After Brandeis removed many of their COVID-19 protocols on March 3, cases have spiked, with 62 cases last week and 110 cases this week. All of these people are in isolation, meaning they cannot attend these Wellness events. Furthermore, due to all of these positive cases, many additional students are close contacts. This means that they’re in quarantine and also cannot join these events, as they are all in person, with no virtual options. A spike in cases could not have been planned for by the Student Union, but the timing is unfortunate, and an increase this large could have been lessened by continuing to keep up rigid COVID-19 prevention methods like mandatory masking and testing for all.
We, as students, are tired. Those who can enjoy the Wellness Day are excited for the festivities, but the majority of our Editorial Board—and the majority of students we know—are going to miss out on these festivities due to a lack of forward planning. We urge Brandeis administration to incorporate Wellness Days into March next year, as the ramifications on mental health from both the stress of midterms and the COVID-19 pandemic are not going anywhere anytime soon.