Spring Semester at Ohio University was bound to be different for students than ones in the past. Months before the semester started, OU canceled spring break and replaced it with three “wellness days” divided between February, March and April.
The a main goal is to limit travel and exposure, while still providing a well-deserved mental break from classes, but students have mixed feelings on whether wellness days will fulfill their intended purpose.
Ethan Brown, a freshman studying economics, thinks canceling spring break was ultimately the right move, regardless of the current alternative.
“Contrary to what many of my fellow students might believe, I think cancelling Ohio University’s spring break this year was absolutely the right call,” Brown said in an email. “ Given the state of the pandemic, it’s unlikely that many of us would have been able to travel, connect with our families, or really enjoy spending our spring breaks the way so many students have in years past anyways.”
Zoe Utsinger, a freshman studying exercise physiology, was initially disappointed with the cancelation of spring break. She does not feel that wellness days will be any different than federal work holidays, where there are still the expectations of working on assignments.
“I certainly appreciate what the university is trying to do, but I have my doubts that these wellness days will actually feel like days off for the majority of the student population,” Brown said in an email. “I really do appreciate the sentiment, and in theory, wellness days seem like a fantastic solution to a difficult situation, but in practice, I’m not so sure the upcoming wellness day will look any different than a regular Tuesday.”
Nora Haycook, a freshman studying history pre-law, thinks wellness breaks won’t really have their intended effect. She says students will likely continue working, especially with asynchronous schoolwork.
Utsinger is one of those students, saying she plans to catch up on homework, and one of her professors even expects her to work on classwork during the break.
Brown says that continuing to do schoolwork and keeping a routine is best for him. He’s planning to spend the day watching lectures and studying in his favorite spot. Brown knows a few students who are planning to do yoga or take the day off, but most are planning to keep working.
Not only does Haycook plan to do homework on her wellness day, she doesn’t believe wellness days adequately make up for the lost spring break.
“There’s only like, three wellness days,” Haycook said. “They’re all in the middle of the week and we’re all going to be working through them. So, if anything, they just eliminated any kind of break we would have.”
Haycook felt giving students breaks was important for sustaining a healthy mental state.
“I feel like there will be less of a need for wellness breaks if we go back in person, because with online it’s so easy to overproduce work for students to do because teachers feel like (students) have more time,” Haycook said. “And, you’re not directly seeing how they manage the work.”
However, even if the wellness breaks aren’t fulfilling the intended purpose, some students still appreciate the gesture.
“I don’t know that wellness breaks, in their current form, will have a very substantive impact on students’ mental health, but knowing that the university is trying its best and actively working to support our well-being still means a lot,” Brown said in an email. “I hope the administration will continue to explore new ways to improve the student experience as the semester unfolds, but commend the university’s efforts thus far in trying to make this a year we can all look back on fondly.”