Kenyon students deserve a break. A real break.
The lack of a spring break at Kenyon has been treated as yet another unfortunate consequence of a difficult semester, rather than a deliberate choice. While we understand that the administration is trying to keep the student body as contained and safe as possible, sacrificing a critical part of the semester is not a fair route.
In place of spring break, the College has implemented “wellness days” — two individual mid-weekdays at the beginning and end of March. They are beneficial in theory, but less than effective in practice; many students spent their first “wellness day” cramming work and studying for tests, unable to sit back and relax as they would in the two normal weeks of spring break. As we argued this past fall, two mid-week days do not afford students and faculty members the reprieve they desperately need, especially in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
For students and faculty, spring break is a necessary opportunity to take a breather, catch up on work and reconnect with family and friends. It is a crucial time at the halfway point in the semester when everyone is tired and in danger of falling behind; it allows us to take a step back, refresh and get ready to finish the semester strong. Instead, we are facing seven more weeks of classes and, eventually, finals, without a chance to catch our breath. To deprive students and faculty of a real break during an academic year that has already taken a serious toll on everyone’s mental health is not only unfair, but psychologically harmful.
As midterms loom around the corner, with some having already occured, students are feeling especially overworked, stressed and exhausted. According to a multi-school survey conducted by the University of Michigan, 83% of students said their mental health had a negative impact on their academic performance during the fall 2020 semester. Half of the students in the survey noted that they grapple with depression, anxiety or both. Many students at Kenyon experience such challenges, and they cannot be ignored.
Physical health and mental health are innately connected. By choosing not to give students a substantial break this semester, the administration has ignored the unfortunate truth that it is difficult for one to be healthy at all under these stressful conditions.
While we understand that Kenyon does not want students going home for a long break during the pandemic, we ask that the administration schedule one or two four-day weekends in the rest of the semester. These would be short enough that travelling home or vacationing anywhere would be impractical, but long enough that students and faculty would have a sustained break time that would truly allow them to relax.
As students ourselves, we’ve felt the burden of juggling our academics, extracurricular activities and social lives for eight weeks straight. The only appropriate way to ensure the health and safety of the Kenyon community — students and faculty alike — is to implement a longer break.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21 and Evey Weisblat ’21, managing editor Jackson Wald ‘22 and executive director Elizabeth Stanley ’21. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.