On Tuesday, an SA Impact petition asking the administration for a new fall break on Nov. 3 and 4 garnered nearly 600 signatures within an hour of its release. The petition comes as students across the University are feeling burnt out from online classes and the pandemic continues to touch everyone’s lives.
One of the petition authors, sophomore Syed Sabeet Kazmi, told the Campus Times he was inspired to help write the petition after witnessing residents in his hall struggling with COVID-19 related burnout, and knowing many were experiencing pandemic-related hardships.
“I have a friend who lost both their grandparents very recently, I have a couple of friends with close friends in ICUs, I myself have a friend from back home who was in the ICU and recently moved to the ventilator,” Kazmi said. “COVID means that people not only have complications within their own lives, but that they need more time than usual to recover from it, because in a number of these situations, it’s life or death.”
Students have been very receptive to the petition on campus. “It’s something that makes sense, previously you would have […] a fall break and certain federal holidays and that kinda evened things out,” said junior Jose Cervantes. “But now the common sentiment is that everything is just a rush.”
“Students are feeling overwhelmed by the number of assignments that continue to pile up, the impending election, and most importantly the pandemic,” said junior Isabelle Vacchetto. “We need even the smallest of a mental break to process how chaotic life is.”
Sophomore Kylie Pitt echoed this, saying, “I think that [the break] would be […] positive, especially since it’s in the middle of a week. It will discourage people from leaving campus.”
As opposed to creating a long weekend which may inadvertently encourage students to leave campus, the petition calls for a break on Election Day and the day immediately after.
“Personally, I’m from New Hampshire, so I wouldn’t be driving back seven hours for a few days,” said junior Trevor Van Allen. “I think they just need to trust the students. There is no reason why students who live an hour away couldn’t go home on a weekend anyways.”
With only four weeks left of in-person instruction on campus, many have turned their focus toward the upcoming spring semester.
Sophomore Kayla Gunderson hoped that the University would learn from this semester and have some breaks scheduled for the spring. She said she’s hoping for “things like having a couple of Mondays off in the spring.”
Kazmi believes the administration will likely consider implementing some breaks in the spring. “Considering how this is an issue brought up this semester,” he reasoned, “the administration will likely be more considerate of it come spring.”
Even if a two-day break is not possible, SA senator and senior Rafael Ramirez-Giron hopes to expand on the idea of having days off for mental health as he works with administrators to build an improved proposal for spring. Ramirez-Giron added that he and other senators will meet with the administration next week to discuss implementing “Mental Health Days.”
The petition has been signed over by 1570 students so far. SA Impact petitions only need 250 votes before being reviewed by SA and making their way up to the administration. In previous semesters, petitions helped pressure the administration into creating a pass/fail option.
But for students like Cervantes, it may be too late in the in-person semester for a break to make much of a difference. In that case, all that’s left is to hope for a better spring semester. “I mean, there is nothing else for me to do, besides keep grinding it out and just pushing forward […] I just keep thinking about that two-month break, that’s what gets me through.”