"No fall break. Can’t go home. Can’t visit new places. Can’t catch up on sleep. But you still need a break!”
This was the slogan that Notre Dame’s McDonald Center for Student Well-Being used on their website to advertise Restoration Week.
A large percentage of the student body is experiencing serious burnout because of the lack of a fall break and the accelerated and intense nature of the fall semester due to schedule changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Restoration Week was meant to be a way to combat that.
Yet, students reacted negatively to the week of activities, claiming administrators did not accurately assess the needs of the student body.
“Adding events to our already hectic schedule cannot alleviate our stress,” said sophomore Lucia Carbajal. “Our class loads and the general circumstances that we live in has caused most of the stress, and a ‘restoration week’ won’t solve that.”
There were a variety of events planned for the week, from special themed nights at the dining halls to Zoom calls with topics such as mindfulness, racial microaggressions, fatigue and more. Also offered were in-person activities like yoga and nature walks to encourage students to get in touch with their bodies, to be more mindful and to find peaceful places to unwind.
With classes, homework, extracurriculars, work and more, students were dismayed at this promise of restoration being presented through events and activities that would never be able to fit into students’ already vastly overflowing schedules.
Halfway through Restoration Week, Student Government sent out a survey to the student body asking them what they feel the administration should do to prevent the widespread student body burnout when the same breakless and breakneck paced semester happens in the spring.
“The motivating factor to send out the survey was our upcoming meeting of the Student Advisory Group for Campus Reopening with Provost Marie Lynn Miranda, Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding, and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs Hugh Page,” said Student Government Chief of Staff Aaron Benavides.
“Rachel, Sarah, and I knew we wanted to solicit feedback so we could advocate for students' needs in the planning and preparation process for the spring semester.”
The survey received over 800 responses in less than 24 hours.
Benavides, described the overall response to the survey as very clear: “It ha[s] been a grueling fall semester and there was a great need for breaks in the upcoming semester. In general, students are worn out, and he said “going to an event that would relieve stress wasn't as helpful because it was another thing to tack on to an already overpacked schedule.”
“Rather than wanting to attend a stress-reliever event or other type of programming, we could all benefit from just a chance for rest, to sleep in, and enjoy a day without the stress of class, meetings, homework, readings, exams, or any other projects,” he said.
“In interactions with any of my friends or any students that we spoke with, it is overwhelmingly clear we are all struggling with the same thing: making it through this long semester without any breaks.”
As of now, with the only scheduled break in the spring consisting of one extra day off for Good Friday before Easter, we would face the same fast-paced and stress-inducing conditions that have us all crawling to the finish line this semester.
Provost Miranda emailed professors about students being under increased pressure and stress because of the lack of fall break. The Provost also suggested considering different ways to alleviate students’ stress, such as cancelling class, cutting back on final exams or separating them into parts to make it more manageable.
“We had a very constructive dialogue, and since then she has committed to incorporating days off throughout the semester (about one a month) to try to give students and faculty a break and some time to recover in between what is sure to be another difficult semester,” Benavides said.
“While we do not have our spring break, I am hopeful that these days off will help us take a day to ourselves and ensure self-care. I think too, having days off in the middle of the week makes the most sense to avoid travel in accordance with our safety guidelines.”