Faculty senate passed a revised academic calendar with a three-day weekend in April. The three-day weekend is a compromise in implementing mental wellness days into the spring semester.
Originally, a student senate resolution called for two three-day weekends — one on Feb. 26 and one on April 16. However, faculty senate passed an amendment that removed the Feb. 26 date from the proposed academic calendar.
Laurel Littrell, professor at Hale Library and faculty senate president-elect, said removing the February date made more senators open to the idea of well-being days.
“I voted against the amendment,” Littrell said. “I thought two days off was still better. One day off instead of two was a compromise that made a big difference.”
Faculty senate president and associate professor in applied human sciences Melinda Markham said the academic calendar proposal passed 80 to six with one abstention. The previous academic calendar introduced in November failed with only 34 senators voting in favor of the two well-being days.
Nathan Bothwell, speaker for student senate and senior in communication studies and political science, said in an email that part of the new recommendation surprised him.
“Part of faculty senate’s amendment to the calendar included a recommendation for the provost to request all instructors look at identifying a day off sometime in the semester for each of their classes,” Bothwell said. “This was a surprise to me, but ultimately a recommendation that I fully support. I heard one faculty senator discuss how we need to have more empathetic course design, and the idea of instructors planning ahead on giving their students a break for their specific classes is a great compromise that I look forward to seeing next semester.”
Littrell said most of faculty senate’s concern revolved around COVID-19 transmission and disruption to education.
“Those are very important concerns but I thought that needs of the students to have a break from this very stressful semester was just balanced a little more in my mind as being important,” Littrell said. “The idea is that we encourage students to really take that time off and try to avoid travel.”
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Bothwell said a traditional spring break is better for students to relax and boost their morale, but anything is better than nothing.
“I think that students are suffering from a lack of morale and hopelessness,” Bothwell said. “Life is overwhelming right now and students are struggling to maintain their mental and emotional well-being. Any sort of break in the semester gives students a time to look forward to and it allows for students to practice self-care during that break, no matter the length of the break.”
Markham said the three day weekend will give students more of a break in the semester.
“We know that, you know, if you connect a Friday with a Saturday and Sunday that would feel like a much more substantial break than if we just had like a Wednesday in the middle of the week,” Markham said.
While this isn’t the desired result, Littrell said she is happy students get some reprieve.
“It was a really great example of compromise shared governance and we also talked about strategies that we want to have next semester,” Littrell said. “Students are only getting one day off. There are some ideas for instructors to help students with their stress levels, handling a lot of the online classes and stresses that they will have the spring semester.”