Lack of a spring break leads to undue pressure

Letter to President Nathan O. Hatch voices mounting stress and concern of students


Katie Fox, Contributing Columnist

To my dearest Natty O,

I hope this finds you well-rested and enjoying the beautiful weather. I’m doing terrible, thank you for asking.

I knew this semester was going to be difficult as soon as I learned our spring break got canceled. Just as I predicted, in the middle of my Friday Night Breakdown™ (a fun new tradition I started this semester), my calendar reminded me that Saturday would have been the first of a sweet seven days off. As I struggled to keep track of the deadlines and readings that I missed this past week, all I could think about was how nice it would be to have a few days where I wasn’t trying to catch up on assignments or reply to yet another discussion post.

Last Tuesday was a sorry excuse for a day off since everything on campus was still open, including faculty office hours and tutoring appointments. And just so we’re clear, it was purely a day off from attending class because everyone else on campus still had ‘normal’ working days.

I’m sure you imagined that we’d spend our first “Wellness Day” doing face-masks and watching movies that our professors recommended in class, or maybe even getting COVID-safe lunch with the girls at Campus Gas. I personally had two essays due Thursday, so instead of relaxing on the 24-hour break from the synchronous classes that the university so generously graced us with, I spent the whole day feeling guilty that I couldn’t force myself to be productive. A lot of students that I’ve talked to about this issue have light Tuesday schedules anyways, so, for many of us, it felt like just another work-filled day.

Mental health is something we often highlight at the Old Gold & Black because it is crucial to physical wellbeing. The university has about a million programs dedicated to improving student mental health. Even though I don’t utilize the UCC, I do have a therapist at home that I see for mental health services. Last Wednesday, I gave her a play-by-play of my week and, I kid you not, this woman said, “I’m surprised you haven’t found a cliff to jump off of. I would have.”

Though my therapist regularly gives comments on how overwhelming my schedule seems, this statement still shocked me. When I mentioned our Tuesday spring break to some middle schoolers that I tutor, they asked, “Wait, spring break was one day? That doesn’t seem like enough.”

President Hatch, I could refer you to about seven unbiased sources who could tell you that this Wellness Day was a sham. This Saturday marks one year since Wake Forest extended our 2020 spring break in light of the rapidly developing pandemic. By the way, why do our transcripts only reflect one pandemic semester? This is semester three, so jot that down, too. I guess it’s possible that you thought that the extra week last year used up our days for this year?

In all seriousness, I understand that the university took away our week-long break to minimize the spread by discouraging students from traveling to Florida or Texas and bringing COVID-19 back to Winston-Salem with them. That’s a fair point. I understand that a lot of colleges are worried about that.

My question is this: how did we decide that students would only get two days out of fifteen weeks off? How does that decision make sense? Also, the kids that you were so worried would travel are going “much-needed” trips to their family’s beach house on the coast anyways. The privileged students who haven’t taken this pandemic seriously since last March are screwing the rest of us who don’t have the luxury (or lack of conscience) to take a beach vacay in South Carolina for the weekend.

I’m not asking for time off to go to Punta Cana — I just want a break. All I want to do is touch some grass and cry to Phoebe Bridgers without the feeling that I’m wasting time I should be spending on coursework or attending seminars and meetings.

College is brutal enough and Wake Forest was overwhelming even before the world fell apart. I know it’s difficult for the administration to make all these decisions, especially when students have disregarded our community guidelines and beast-moded past last semester’s COVID-19 case total in our first month back. But I am exhausted. This isn’t healthy or sustainable for students or faculty. Please give us a break.