On Jan. 18, the College of Engineering announced to their students that March 8 through 12 will be a “relief week,” meaning no major homework will be assigned or due and no exams will be scheduled on these five days.
As many students are taking or about to take midterms, this week is stressful enough without the added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other colleges within Temple University should collaborate with their students and give them something similar to a relief week, allowing them to catch up on work and catch their breath.
The academic departments of the College of Engineering came up with the idea by holding listening sessions with students last semester, wrote Shawn Fagan, assistant dean of the College of Engineering, in an email to The Temple News.
“Engineering is a challenging pursuit under the best of circumstances, but our students and faculty have really worked hard during this period,” Fagan wrote.
On Oct. 26, 2020, Temple pushed the spring semester back one week and canceled spring break, which was scheduled to be March 1 through 7.
On Dec. 17, 2020, Temple implemented two Wellness Days, one on Feb. 23 and one on March 24. Classes would be canceled on these days, but the announcement did not mention canceling homework assignments or exams.
Not having to wake up for my 8 a.m. class last Tuesday was refreshing, but postponing my Tuesday classes only made my Thursday course load more grueling, and unfortunately, I ended up spending the Wellness Day doing homework anyway.
If anything, the Wellness Day made me more stressed because I felt guilty not taking the day off but anxious taking a minute to myself while knowing I had homework due the next day.
Because I don’t have class on Wednesday, I don’t expect next month’s Wellness Day to be any different.
While the Wellness Day was a good idea, it’s not enough; more colleges should do what the College of Engineering decided to do and give students a full week off, said James Calcagni, a senior mechanical engineering major.
“This semester has been very taxing mentally,” Calcagni said. “I do not find the online teaching to be very effective, and most of my learning has actually been self-learning. Considering there is no spring break this semester, having a reprieve week is really a good idea to give us a mental break.”
In an August 2020 study from the American Psychological Association, nearly 90 percent of adults ages 18 to 23 said education was a significant source of stress, U.S. News reported.
College students are under so much stress that taking any rest can feel like a waste of valuable time that could have been spent doing something productive.
However, breaks are essential to improving physical and emotional well-being, restoring motivation for long-term goals, increasing productivity and creativity, consolidating memory and improving learning, Psychology Today reported.
Regardless of the pandemic, Aliya Poblete, a junior environmental engineering major, has a hectic schedule leading up to this week, she said.
“The thought of this relief week was a great way to not burn out like crazy,” Poblete said.
Engineering is a notoriously difficult major, and an entire week in March may not work with every other college, but departments should be asking for student input on breaks this semester.
The Wellness Resource Center will be hosting Wellness Week, a series of educational events and workshops related to mental and sexual health, during the week of March 8 through 12 on Zoom. The speakers will cover topics like self-care, loneliness and supporting peers.
Although this is a nice thought, a more practical way to improve students’ well-being is to give students a week or even a few days to close their computer and get off Zoom.
“If [Temple] wants their students to perform more efficiently, there needs to be a way to not overwork the student body, which then becomes counterintuitive to our learning process,” Poblete said.
Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately described how the College of Engineering’s relief week affected classes during it.