Lev Katreczko / Sun Staff Photographer

Students pose on a snowy Ho Plaza. A semester without a spring break has some students worried that "wellness days" won't provide a true respite.

February 16, 2021

As Wellness Days Replace Spring Break, Students Prepare for a Long Semester

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Preparing for a long semester without spring break, some students said they doubt “wellness days” will provide a true respite. 

The administration mapped out two pairs of wellness days during the semester. The first is scheduled for March 9 and March 10, a Tuesday and Wednesday. The second pair will occur on April 23 and April 26, a Friday and Monday, giving students a four-day weekend.

Although there are no classes on wellness days, students worried that the breaks are too short to provide an academic reprieve.

Jacqueline Allen ’23 expressed her doubts based on last semester’s single-day break. Allen said she understood the necessity of eliminating spring break because of the virus, but anticipates other problems. 

“I’m concerned about the effect of constant work on everyone’s mental health,” she wrote to The Sun. 

Looking back at the single wellness day of the fall semester, Allen said she believed most students will use the spring days to catch up on work instead of resting. Mriganka Nerkar ’22 said the day off in the fall didn’t feel like a break. 

“On that Wednesday [last semester], I did every single thing that I would have done on a normal Wednesday except go to my 9 a.m. class,” Nerkar said.

Nerkar said she was concerned that the long weekend in April would allow for student travel and for the virus to travel back to Ithaca. Even for the weekdays off, Nerkar said she worried that students will take Monday off to leave campus.

Similarly, Derek Lao ’24 was skeptical of the wellness days as a preventative measure. “People will travel without the University knowing, anyway,” he said.

For the spring semester, the University is enforcing its travel restrictions by requiring each student to be tested on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday to keep students in Ithaca for the weekend. The weekend testing policy was based on data from the fall that linked many positive tests to travel outside Ithaca.

But “wellness days,” a new concept to the Cornell community, could be a way for the University to highlight mental health throughout the year. Ruju Dani ’22 said she saw wellness days as a useful tool for assisting students, even once the pandemic is over and the academic calendar includes spring break again. 

“I think it could be cool to have a wellness day or two in the middle of the semester anyway regardless of a week-long break, cause I think it does give students the chance to reset,” Dani said.

Dani noted that when given longer breaks, most students return home or vacation outside of Ithaca, while wellness days give students a chance to take a breather and refocus themselves while remaining on campus.

Spring 2019, the last semester with a pre-COVID-19 academic calendar, had a four-day long weekend for February break, an entire week off for spring break and three study days before final exams. 

Now, in addition to the wellness days, there are four study days before final exams. Excluding study days and weekends, spring 2021 has three fewer days of break than spring 2019.  

“I like [the wellness days] knowing that the other option is to not have any breaks at all,” Dani said.

Olivia Cipperman ’23 contributed reporting.