LETTER: Student Governing Association members believe spring mental wellness day will be critical to student success

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COVID-19 does not make exceptions. Masks, hand washing and social distancing provide added protection against this deadly virus — but, as the news of our nation’s president testing positive proves, no one is exempt. Concern for self, concern for the 811 members of our Kansas State family who had COVID-19 and concern for vulnerable loved ones left at home weigh heavy on our hearts. Atop this lingering fear of illness are the financial implications that COVID-19 placed on us, our families and our communities. All of these factors create a perfect storm that, for the sake of everyone, must pass soon.

With this in mind, the Student Governing Association stands in full support of the Faculty Senate’s decision to extend Winter Break and remove the traditional Spring Break. SGA believes that, for the safety of students, faculty, staff and the greater Manhattan community, travel associated with Spring Break should be prevented.

However, the stress of our perfect pandemic storm and 16 weeks of uninterrupted instruction will prove detrimental to the mental and emotional wellbeing of students. To help mitigate the difficulty of a semester without breaks, Provost Charles Taber agreed to consider two well-being days in which all classes would not meet.

On Thursday, Oct. 1, SGA introduced, special ordered and passed Resolution 26. In this piece of legislation, SGA recommended the wellbeing days be held on either a Monday or Friday, resulting in two distinct three-day weekends. SGA proposed these short breaks to take place within the weeks of Feb. 22 and April 5 to create even sections of instruction. After passage, the legislation went to administrators in time for the University Calendar Committee meeting on Friday morning, where the Student Body President and Vice President offered their thoughts.

Both student leaders and administrators expressed concern that a three-day weekend will result in students traveling. Although SGA does not recommend unnecessary travel, student leaders agreed that asking students — particularly those who live too far away to visit home on a regular weekend — to go 16 weeks without seeing family could be harmful to their emotional well-being. Students considering traveling home are urged to take part in Lafene Health Center’s asymptomatic testing before travel. With coursework, extracurricular activities and the stressors of living through a global pandemic, having a strong support system is imperative.

A wellbeing day in the middle of a school week would simply not meet the needs it was created to. As a student who takes half of my classes online, a midweek break would not create significant relief for me. Many of my peers expressed similar feelings. Frankly, a midweek break would be a disservice to students.

This fall semester is difficult for all of us. A lack of social interaction, the cancelation of university events and the challenge of online classes has taken a heavy toll on my mental health, and I know that many students feel the same. I’m worried about my loved ones, I struggle with online learning and I miss having a normal social life. The lack of break this semester is hard to cope with, but I fear that next semester will be worse if there isn’t a reprise in instruction. We need three-day weekends.

To my fellow K-Staters: Continue wearing your mask, keep washing your hands and maintain distancing practices. If we all comply with the recommendations of healthcare experts, we can all get through this.

I implore you to reach out to get the help that you may need by calling Counseling Services at 785-532-6927. To administrators: We appreciate the work you are doing to protect us, but we will need a break.

Maggie Billman is a sophomore in secondary education with an emphasis in speech and theatre. She also serves as speaker pro-tempore of the student senate in Student Governing Association. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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