This year marked the first time USC offered wellness days instead of a traditional, week-long spring break to its students. Without the break, some professors have noticed their students burning out more so than usual. So they decided to offer their own solution: a week of no class and a lighter workload.
“I decided to give my students a spring break because at this point in the year we would normally be returning from our annual one week holiday,” said Professor Kate Burton, a Professor at the School of Dramatic Arts.
The school decided to eliminate the week-long vacation in hopes that students would limit their travel plans amidst the pandemic. It replaced the break with five “mental wellness days,” which were intended to make up for the change.
Burton, understanding the rationale behind not having a spring break, decided to offer a week off anyways after seeing her students’ exhaustion.
“I could see the fatigue on their faces and knew they needed to have some time off,” Burton said. “There are only five weeks left in the semester and I want them to be fulfilled by it.”
A tweet by USC student, Tata Vivas said, “Professors are giving spring breaks because they know we are unwell... @USC take a hint.”
Ha N. Hoang, a junior at USC majoring in communications, also received a break from one of her professors. She took the advantage of the break to meet her friends in person for the first time since the pandemic began.
Hoang said she was grateful for the professor’s decision.
“I was just really glad that my professors were also going through the same Zoom fatigue that everyone else was feeling, because I think it breaks the wall in terms of understanding,” Hoang said, adding, “We are all humans and we are all tired of staring at our screen.”
Other students, whose professors did not offer them a week off, decided to create their own makeshift spring breaks.
“I recently went to Miami, Florida for spring break. This wasn’t my first time traveling since the whole pandemic started,” said Sara Nguyen, a senior majoring in business administration. “I thought things were pretty normal. Obviously, the only difference was that everyone was wearing a mask, but other than that people were acting like COVID wasn’t really a thing anymore.”
At the beginning of the semester, USC decided to provide five “wellness days” days off, scheduled randomly throughout the Spring semester. According to USC Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity, wellness days are described as “a day on which there will be no classes and no classwork expected of students. Students are encouraged to use this time to rest, exercise, and connect with friends and family.”
The decision was considered controversial by many students, especially when looking at nearby schools like UCLA, who kept their spring break week intact. UC Davis went as far as awarding some students $75 for opting to take a “staycation” instead of traveling.
“I feel like a lot of us are doing work for the following day anyways for the wellness days that we were given, so it doesn’t really help that much, " Hoang said.
Hoang said having a spring break would have actually achieved the purpose of improving students’ mental health and recharging themselves, rather than having sporadic days off of class.