The snow has finally melted, the sun is finally shining. You’re ready to enjoy the spring and the warmth and new life it brings, until you have to hop on Zoom (or maybe if you’re ‘lucky,’ go to campus) for the majority of the day.
“I understand, because of COVID, they [University of Colorado Admin] don’t want people traveling but, you guys also have frat parties being thrown off campus,” said first-year student Sarah Ensign.
With the Provost’s announcement on Oct. 22 regarding spring break, many students’ hope for a brighter second semester has vanished. Instead of having our traditional five-day break, CU Boulder students will start the Spring semester on Jan. 14, three days later than the original start date, and will be granted two ‘wellness days’ throughout the semester as a break from studies. Although this decision was made as part of COVID-19 preventative actions, it poses complications for the mental health of CU’s student body.
Despite the constant messaging from the university about mental health and stress relief techniques, a 2013 study of CU Boulder students found that 43% of the students surveyed indicated they felt ‘more than average stress’ in college. With the pandemic, the messages have only been more frequent as if there is the acknowledgment that students are feeling the effects of isolation and online schooling.
Although mental health should be talked about considering suicide rates have “skyrocketed by over 60 percent over the past 20 years with almost every suicide indicator and student population showing increasing trends,” what does it mean to constantly be bringing it up but never fully addressing the implications of mental health?
In a Strada Student Viewpoint survey released in October, over 4,000 undergraduate college students submitted responses about school and the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the survey, 44% of students responded that stress, anxiety and loneliness would be their biggest challenge this fall. School breaks allow for students to handle this stress without the added thought of upcoming assignments. Throughout the semester, full-time students are asked to focus on a minimum of four subjects at once (12 credit hours). These breaks are the only genuine time that student’s minds are allowed to be somewhat at ease. Especially during a pandemic, there are enough life stresses without having to worry about one of fifteen weekly assignments due.
Just because the pandemic is ongoing, does not mean that the regular struggles of college life have stopped affecting students. There is still pressure to keep up with social circles, find a job, and maintain a decent GPA. Students have to keep up with the social drama, staying in touch with their parents, and just surviving on their own in general. Breaks allow students to put the stresses of life on pause.
Although movies like Spring Breakers (2012) highlight the freedom and fun that some college students experience for spring break, for many spring break is not synonymous with partying. A survey conducted last spring found that those 18-24 had the highest percentage (95%) of canceled plans, and travel due to the pandemic. Maisa Nammari, a CU Boulder senior studying Linguistics, has chronic illness making it difficult for her to sustain energy over long periods of time.
“I rely on the few breaks we have during the semester to recuperate and rest so that I can finish the semester. I’m seriously worried that without any substantial amount of time off during the spring semester, I will deal with even more burnout and exhaustion than I normally do,” Nammari said. “It’s also very demoralizing to be constantly receiving emails that claim the university cares about us, while also receiving notices that there will be shortened or no breaks, no pass/fail extensions, no tuition deductions, and so on.”
Nammari’s sentiment is shared with Sophia Volk, a second-year MBA student and head of the initiative and petition Too Much Tuition, CU. You can check out more information about Too Much Tuition CU here.
“The announcement is just one more piece of evidence that confirms the university just isn’t thinking. Their entire message was delivered poorly, it was tone-deaf and leadership is not listening to the concerns that students are voicing,” expressed Volk.
Since the beginning of the semester, there has been little transparency and genuine communication between CU’s students and the higher-up faculty. In late September, students living in Darley North were given the notice to move out of the dorm in order to make room for more isolation dorms, less than 72 hours before the move-out date listed. To make-up for the inconvenience, CU provided a $250 credit to the student’s Bursar accounts, as Karen Morfitt of CBSN Denver reported.
This credit comes as a grain of salt considering the lack of tuition reduction despite restrictions to services and facilities on campus. Volk provided a list of fees on her tuition bill in addition to whether or not students are receiving the services being paid for to Fox 31 Denver in Nov.:
Art and Cultural Enrichment Fee: $10.00 (Not Receiving)
Bike Program Fee: $15.00 (Not Receiving)
Mental Health Resource Fee: $77.40 (Receiving)
Student Activity Fee: $276.31 (Not Receiving)
Rec Center Expansion Fee: $106.96 (Not Receiving)
Student Health Fee: $97.09 (Receiving)
You can learn more about fees charged for services that aren’t being offered during the pandemic here.
In April, CU will actually be proposing a 3% tuition increase. In a recent newsletter sent out by Volk, it was shown that CU’s administrative costs, among other costs, are significantly higher than other public universities, but specifically significantly higher than other PAC-12 schools.
For freshmen, this means an extended period in the dorms. As spring break is our only break during the Spring semester, the experience will differ greatly from the four-month stay in the dorms last fall.
“I think that not having that break is just gonna not help [mental health] because even now, even with starting in August, though now, I’m already like okay, when’s Thanksgiving break? When’s Christmas break? Because I just, I can’t wait to have that break. Because of how long I’ve gone doing work, writing papers, studying, taking tests. I’m just like, I need some type of…I need something. And so I think that’ll definitely affect me since they’re taking a full week from us,” Ensign said.
As the spring semester comes to a close, it is hard to see what there is to look forward to. Months of continuous Zoom, minus the measly two wellness days will put the Buff population to the test. To top it off, the days will be getting longer.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Lauren de Leon at firstname.lastname@example.org