Four Day isn’t the break we deserve

Dana Walden, Opinion Editor

 I am — quite literally — the only person I know who did not have an exam, paper or project due at the end of Four Day. Even then, I was still working my ass off; like many students, I have several jobs and a large amount of regular schoolwork. Four Day was supposed to be an opportunity for me to catch up on sleep and relax, to take my first and only real break since school started.

Four Day is our only chance at extended, deep rest during the fall semester. Usually, students might take this time to go hiking, visit friends and family, watch movies or do anything else that might help us recharge. However, many professors seem to view the “break” as an opportunity to give out more lengthy, involved assignments. Increasing students’ workload over our only reprieve from school could have serious consequences for our mental health and may increase our already high stress levels. 

According to a 2017 study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 25.8% of people aged 18-25 experience some form of mental illness. There is clearly a mental health crisis for college-aged students that seems independent of the stresses brought on by the events of 2020. Furthermore, in a study conducted late June 2020, the Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) found that 74.9% of respondents aged 18-24 experienced mental or behavioral health symptoms related to COVID-19. Obviously, we’re still in a pandemic, and the financial, social and environmental situations that many of us are dealing with just exacerbate mental health issues that were already present. 

Using Four Day as an excuse to assign larger projects is not new, but it is particularly harmful right now. It feels as though professors have the same expectations for us online as they did when we were in person, even though many of us are struggling with online classes. My roommate should not have to shotgun three Ibuprofen every few hours to get through assignments, especially on a “break.” I don’t think trying to continue classes “as normal as possible” is worth it. It goes without saying that these are not normal times, and ignoring our collective and individual circumstances only creates more harm and headache. 

Professors: I appreciate what many of you have done to support students both academically and interpersonally, especially considering college-wide pay cuts; but if you assigned an exam, a paper or any other major assignment over the break, you may need to seriously reconsider your pedagogy.

With that said, I would invite you to consider how your assignment schedule, class workload and attendance expectations may be impacting already exhausted students. What’s more important: preserving your syllabus or preserving your students’ ability to thrive? You have a direct effect on students’ capacity to cope with these wild circumstances; so, you have a moral imperative to make sure your actions are not negatively affecting those you have authority over.

Students: Take a break if you need it. Prioritize your mental and physical health over what your classes demand of you. You matter more than that essay, I promise. Skip that class to take a nap, turn in that assignment late to eat dinner with your family/housemates. Go on a walk, listen to some music, do anything other than schoolwork. You deserve to take a break, even at the expense of what is expected of you.