Editorial Notebook

Wellness day woes

Many classes at Rensselaer have been canceled based on the suggestion to create a “wellness day” for students and professors alike. The intent is to give students and professors a break from their workloads to give them a moment to breathe and catch up on work. With RPI joining the more than 60% of colleges ditching Spring Break this year in order to prevent travel to and from campus, wellness days may give students a chance to go outside and enjoy the sun.

However, these wellness days may have unintended effects. With Spring Break removed to extend Winter Break, a break of some kind is clearly needed. Wellness days do not produce the same effect as an uninterrupted week of no class, or even a three day weekend. For most students, a three day weekend is a chance for them to catch up on backlogged work without needing to worry about more work being assigned by their professors.

What makes matters worse, these wellness days (if granted) are not uniform across campus. With loosely given suggestions from department heads, professors are approaching wellness days in different ways. For example, Dr. Hurst's Modeling and Control of Dynamic Systems class will receive a day off from class with the day's content removed from the syllabus. Additionally, all students will receive attendance credit and partial solutions to an upcoming homework assignment were posted before the due date. Dr. Meunier also decided to decrease the workload of his Introduction to Quantum Mechanics course by assigning smaller problem sets for homework while maintaining his lecture schedule.

These sudden class cancellations can also present other logistical academic issues. Professors who have decided to completely cancel class and shift their schedules face a different issue: squeezing the same amount of material in less time. For example, though Dr. Keith Fraser canceled lecture for his Genetic Engineering class, a recorded lecture was posted in its place. If professors who are behind schedule decide to take this wellness day off, they will have to either cut material or speed through the remainder to prepare for final exams.

While well-intentioned, a wellness day is not a replacement for Spring Break. Even then, the wellness day is simply going to be a day for students to catch up on their work and for professors to condense their already tight schedules. Even though these wellness days may give students a temporary reprieve from upcoming work, their nonuniformity cuts back on the potential benefits for students while, in many cases, only delaying when the work comes due. Because the purpose of the wellness day is to reduce student’s stress, it might be better to simply reduce their workload, rather than just giving a day off.