After each class, Evangelia Bellas asks her students for three adjectives to describe how they’re feeling during the semester.
When students responded with “stressed” and “burnt out,” Bellas, a bioengineering professor, asked her department to hold a town hall meeting to discuss having a week with no assignments to give students a break.
“I brought that up again with our department and our chair, and I just said, ‘I think, you know, students would really benefit from this,’” Bellas said.
The College of Engineering will hold a relief week from March 8 through 12, during which classes are held but no large exams or assignments will be given to students. While students are glad to have time off from assignments and quizzes, some worry about assignments piling up in the weeks afterward.
The relief week became college-wide after the bioengineering department and other engineering departments went to the dean’s office in the College of Engineering to encourage it.
In the College of Engineering, relief week will come in addition to the two Wellness Days Temple University implemented on Feb. 23 and March 24, where classes are canceled in lieu of spring break and the semester starting later, The Temple News reported.
When holding focus groups beginning in October 2020 with faculty and student leaders about online learning, Shawn Fagan, the assistant dean of the College of Engineering, heard students were feeling overwhelmed, he said.
“It was getting to a point where I was hearing a lot of concerning things where it wasn’t just students complaining for the sake of complaining,” Fagan said. “It was more or less like sharing how difficult it was in this environment, particularly engineering is very challenging in general, and then how much more challenging it was becoming in this remote environment.”
In October 2020, Temple canceled spring break, usually held the first week in March, for the Spring 2021 semester to limit student travel and keep COVID-19 cases at a minimum, The Temple News reported.
As of March 1, there were 93 active cases of COVID-19 among students and faculty on Main Campus, and Philadelphia recorded 29 new cases of COVID-19 on Feb. 28, The Temple News reported.
While online and in-person classes are still held during the relief week, the department asked faculty to adjust their syllabi to make sure there wouldn’t be any large assignments, but students would still be learning, Fagan said.
M.E. Houston, a junior mechanical engineering major, is looking forward to having a week to catch her breath in classes and plans to use the time to complete homework and focus on her general education courses that are outside of the College of Engineering.
Houston previously used spring break to delve deeper into senior projects or extracurricular activities, like Temple Formula Racing, a group of students who assemble a competitive race car, while completing additional work, she said.
“Inevitably I’ll have like, a week where I have a migraine and I’m not working at full capacity,” Houston said. “I’m not the only one. I live with two other engineers who, you know, we kind of view it as it’s necessary, just the way courses are paced.”
Ashley LaRochelle, a junior mechanical engineering major, said she has four classes on Monday, two on Tuesday and Thursday, a lab on Wednesday and works in the engineering building four times that week.
Though she doesn’t have assignments that week, all of her quizzes, exams and projects are pushed back, making the next week more stressful, she said.
LaRochelle is worried about only using the week to do work for her classes instead of relaxing, but she likes the idea of having a break for students to take care of their mental health because she has found it challenging to step away from her work with online classes, she said.
“It’s very difficult for students right now who have been inside for a year to like, mentally grasp doing all this work and not being in person,” she said. “It’s very hard.”