We’re stressed.

We don’t want to belabor the obvious, but the entire world is a dumpster fire.

And with everything else happening on top of the normal stresses of an academic semester, practically everyone — students, faculty, staff — is emotionally and physically burnt out.

It’s not really surprising, given that the semester has been barreling along without any pauses since it began. A normal semester would be exhausting enough, but at least the world wouldn’t be upturned by a deadly pandemic (as well as a lot of other chaos), and at least we’d have a long fall break weekend to gasp for air. 

The Campus Times Editorial Board completely understands why fall break was cancelled, and we completely agree with the decision. A four-day weekend is just too tempting of an offer for non-University sanctioned travel, and how could they police an entire population of students, faculty, and staff?

But fall break wasn’t just an opportunity to party, or travel, or any of those fun but not COVID-friendly things we loved to do. 

It’s also a lifeline. A time to catch up on work, finally sleep those eight solid hours, and just take a break. It’s a temporary but significant reprieve from the storm, and what’s more needed than sweet, sweet time for a temporally starved society? 

Again, we 100% support the decision to cancel fall break, but there has to be something to replace it.  

To be fair, the University has been putting forth some effort to fix the problem. UCC has continued offering walk-in therapy sessions to BIPOC students, the Mindful University Project is offering drop-in meditation and yoga sessions, and WCSA has worked overtime planning a million different events (like Yoga on the Quad with President Mangelsdorf) to keep students connected and mentally healthy. 

The problem isn’t that there’s no way for us to take care of our mental health. It’s that there’s no way for us to fit that into our schedules on top of nonstop schoolwork.

Programs like Yoga on the Quad are supposed to help us de-stress from a difficult semester, but how are we supposed to make time to de-stress when we’re already swamped?

Adding more events to people’s lives doesn’t help; if we have to make time in our already-busy schedules to attend to our mental health, then for a lot of people, our mental health will have to wait. 

Stress and anxiety don’t just happen. Our academic burnout didn’t just appear out of the blue to be solved by a one-hour yoga session in between cramming for tests; it was directly caused by what feels like too many of those tests, quizzes, and assignments for us to handle.

A Facebook poll recently showed that students aren’t hoping for major policy changes — like a change to the pass/fail policy — but they would appreciate increased leniency and understanding from faculty. 

We’ve heard grievances from students about increased academic stressors. Professors upload assignments later than they told the class they would, but keep the due date the same. Students feel uncomfortable asking professors for an extension on assignments even when they really need them, or professors reject a request for an extension. Lastly, because there isn’t a fall break, some professors assigned additional work on the two extra days of classes.

All of those problems show a lack of respect toward students and a lack of understanding of just how difficult this semester has been for our mental health. We expected isolation, but we did not expect this level of busyness and high expectations. 

It would be really helpful for professors to be more lenient and understanding. But it’s actually the administration who has one of the easiest and most effective means of solving this problem.

We need a weekday off. Yes, a weekday, just not a Monday or Friday, so that people aren’t tempted to travel outside of Rochester over a long weekend.

And while you’re at it, if you’re going to give us a weekday off, make it Tuesday, Nov. 3 — Election Day.

The University wants us to be engaged citizens, striving to make a difference in the world. Just look at all of RCCL’s year-round efforts to get students involved in the Rochester community. Or the Meliora Values that plaster the University advertising. If you want that, why not encourage voting, the most basic form of civic engagement? Make the day not just one for students to decompress, but also for students to remember that there’s a world outside of campus for us to contribute to, bigger than our millions of assignments and tests.

Having Election Day off gives students an entire day to get to their polling place if they’re registered to vote in Rochester, or to postmark their ballot if they’re voting absentee. 

An official University holiday gives faculty and staff the time to perform their civic duty, too. The more people that can vote, the better. That’s what makes a democracy.

And because fall break is two days, give us a second day off: Veterans Day. It’s a national holiday, and it’s on a Wednesday this year. Some staff members are themselves veterans, some students are currently in the reserves of the military, and many of us have family members who are veterans. We should honor them by celebrating that holiday, too.

Two days off would help tremendously for students to be able to keep up academically and emotionally, and for faculty and staff to get a much deserved break. 

The burnout among students right now is at unprecedented levels. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that health is of the utmost importance. 

But health does not just mean physical health in the face of COVID-19; it also means promoting mental health. 

The Editorial Board is a weekly Opinions article representing the view of the Campus Times, co-written by Editor-in-Chief Hailie Higgins, Publisher An Nguyen, Managing Editor Corey Miller-Williams, Features Editor Micah Greenberg, and Opinions Editor Lucy Farnham.

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