Saturday, November 28, 2020

Editorial: The spring calendar is a mess, here's an alternative

November 10, 2020
<p>Design by Daena Faustino.</p>

Design by Daena Faustino.

Amid a suspenseful presidential election and a worsening global pandemic, students are expected to put aside their anxiety and stress to push through online classes. The impact on students’ mental health is only expected to get tougher.

Michigan State announced pass/fail grading for the fall and spring semester Monday, which is an incredibly helpful step to improve student mental health.

Still, issues with the spring calendar remain.

The premise for canceling spring break is understandable. MSU wants to limit travel and ensuing virus transmissions. The COVID-19 pandemic is worsening in Ingham County, across the country and around the world. 

If people — students and adults alike — continued to follow the regulations put in place, maybe MSU wouldn’t have had to take such drastic measures to ensure students’ safety. Large crowd gatherings, like the ones that took place after MSU beat the University of Michigan on Oct. 31, did not help the situation.

Will the negligent students who burn couches cancel their flights to Cancun if classes are online anyway? We’ll see that verdict on Instagram.

Spring break or no spring break, there should be different mental health days. 

The four currently-scheduled mental health days are Tuesday and Wednesday, March 2-3 and Thursday and Friday, April 22-23. 

The implication of this placement is that midterms are sooner in a shortened spring semester, forcing faculty to cram more coursework into fewer days.

Let us be clear: We are not advocating for MSU to bring spring break back.

But, there has to be a way to conduct spring semester that takes into account both the COVID-19 pandemic and the worsening mental health of the students.

Here’s our proposal: 

There should be five mental health days better spread throughout the semester. The proposed days are:

  • Friday and Monday, Feb. 19-22 

  • Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23-24 

  •  Friday, April 16, before finals week

The five mental health days, along with MLK Day, are equal to the six days that students would normally get during the spring semester. They are spread out enough to discourage traveling during those times but better placed to serve students’ needs.

We appreciate the way the university is prioritizing students’ — and their families’  — safety, but the placement of the days left much to be desired. 

By shortening the spring semester — for a second time, we might add — administration is asking professors to try to fit just as much content in less time. This will hurt students more. They’ll be overworked and overwhelmed. Now is a time we need to be understanding of students' needs. Now is not the time to push them even more. 

The point of the mental health days is to take the pressure off students, even if just for a few days. Through the university-pitched schedule, those days would be just like most students’ weekends — full of studying for exams and completing assignments before 11:59 p.m.

Let students actually check out. Give them a break. Give them the opportunity to reset and come back stronger. Change the currently proposed schedule, and give students the real opportunity to relax. 

If you don’t, students are going to end up checking out anyways, working to the point of burnout.

Support students during this tough time in their lives. Change the calendar.

The State News Editorial Board is composed of Editor-in-Chief Evan Jones, Managing Editor SaMya Overall, Campus Desk Editor Karly Graham, City Desk Editor Kaishi Chhabra, Culture Desk Editor Devin Anderson-Torrez, Sports Desk Editor Jayna Bardahl, Copy Chief Mark Ostermeyer, Audience Engagement Editor Sophia Kalakailo, Multimedia Manager Tessa Osborne, Photo Editor Alyte Katilius, Staff Rep. Wendy Guzman and Diversity and Inclusion Rep. Di’Amond Moore.

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