Students gear up for first University-wide wellness day

USC opted for five sporadic days off throughout the semester instead of a traditional spring break.

USC’s first of five “mental wellness days” is this Friday, March 12. As the day approaches in the midst of midterms, many students are longing for more than a day break from classes.

“When you have a day off, you don’t actually have a day off,” said sophomore public policy major Bella Robakowski. “You have a day to catch up.”

Robakowski noted that she’s observed student and professor morale is at an all-time low at this point of the year, saying that students are just barely “crawling” through midterms. She explained that the stress of midterms has felt prolonged due to the lack of time off.

“I just know that my peers and I are so in need of a break,” Robakowski said. “A week off gives you time to have full days of rest, do activities, and spread out the work you have.”

The University announced in an email last fall that five scattered “wellness days” will replace the normal spring break week. These days are spread out through the second half of the spring semester on Friday, March 12; Tuesday, March 23; Wednesday, April 7; Thursday, April 22; and Friday, April 30.

On Wednesday, USC Student Health announced this Friday’s break will include hourly mental health workshops to “refresh and refuel.” This will include programs on managing emotions, battling zoom fatigue, stress management, and meditation and mindfulness.

Students have raised concerns over the days of the week on which the wellness days fall. Two out of the five days are Fridays, a day when many USC students do not have classes in the first place. The wellness day on Friday, April 30 was originally scheduled to be the last day of classes.

“USC basically added an extra day to study for finals,” Robakowski said. “Many students will likely use this day to study for finals rather than take a break, which undermines the goal of having a wellness day.”

Wellness days are not only a day without classes, but also a day when no classwork is expected and students are encouraged to rest, Provost Charles Zukoski wrote in a Nov. 9 University-wide memorandum.

Many students complained about the branding as a “wellness” day. “It just doesn’t add up,” said sophomore theatre major Olivia Troast. She explained that the need for a mental health day is not something that can necessarily be planned. “We can’t schedule when we’re going to be unwell,” Troast said.

The intention of the spread out days is to, “minimize the risk of spreading coronavirus through travel,” according to the Nov. 9 memorandum from Zukoski. However, it doesn’t seem that the change of schedule will put a stop to the travel as many students who live by campus have plans to leave Los Angeles later this semester.

“I think travel still is going to happen but it’s going to take a greater toll on the individual,” said Charlotte Stiplosek, a freshman majoring in business administration. She went on a trip to visit a friend in Santa Barbara in late February.

If students are going to travel they technically still can due to the ability to Zoom into class from anywhere. However, they will have to do so on their own time, potentially missing classes and exacerbating stress.

“USC is putting students in an awkward situation by not allotting time to see their family and close friends — particularly during a pandemic when this sense of support is paramount,” Stiplosek said.

USC offers many resources for students struggling with their mental health, outside of University “wellness days.”

If you are having mental health troubles, below are some USC resources available to students: