May 7, 2021 | NEWS | By Mika Alexander | Photo by Aida Hasson
After the Colorado College Student Government Association (CCSGA) discussed the burnout and mental health issues the student body has faced in the midst of a global pandemic and ongoing racial violence, the student group has been advocating for faculty to approve a universal campus-wide mental health day.
However, this initiative has been met with complications as a campus-wide mental health day could disrupt class syllabi and the acquisition of major requirements, causing extra stress to both students and faculty.
Deksyos Damtew ’22, the incoming student body president, explained CCSGA’s reasoning for wanting a universal mental health day.
“Students, staff, and faculty at CC did not get a spring break,” Damtew said. “On top of that, we expanded [the structure of the block plan] to have more blocks in there, as well instead of giving ourselves time and space during the pandemic to process things like the racial violence that’s been going on that has been putting students in difficult situations this year.”
In attempting to pass this initiative, Damtew met with department chairs to get an idea of faculty feelings regarding the mental health day. Although Damtew says that many people — students and faculty alike — were in favor of taking “some sort of mental health day,” he learned that major concerns surrounded finding a day that works for everyone without having to shift syllabi around too quickly.
Moreover, “the big cons were definitely missing class material and students feeling like they’d be further behind in classes. Some [students] are in major requirement classes and some feel that since they’re paying to be at the college it’s really difficult to miss a day of content,” Damtew said.
Because of these issues, faculty members denied having a campus-wide mental health day and instead left it up to individual faculty members to make adjustments on a class-by-class basis. According to Damtew, not having unanimous support from faculty made it unlikely for a universal mental health day initiative to pass.
Rather than having a universal day, faculty overall feel that individually-tailored mental health initiatives will provide students with more options for self-care, said Dean of Faculty Claire Garcia in a written statement to The Catalyst.
“Students have presented a strong and compelling picture of how students are suffering, and faculty listened and deliberated the pros and cons. Ultimately, faculty are not convinced that a single common day off is the most effective way that professors can help alleviate that suffering and support students as they navigate these awful times,” Garcia said.
Despite not approving a campus-wide mental health day, CC faculty have been working to support students’ mental health throughout this year.
“Most faculty have already made significant adjustments to workload, assignments, and expectations, and feel that taking off an entire day will result in even more stress and anxiety as the work would have to be made up and reallocated and most expectations and assignments have been dramatically pared down,” Garcia said.
In response to the denial of an all-campus mental health day, CCSGA sent out a survey to students to gauge levels of support for a mental health day before the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.
Although CCSGA received concerns over the survey’s tendency to guide respondents toward supporting the initiative, the survey showed “overwhelming support” for a mental health day and has proven meaningful to advocates like Damtew.
“I think [the survey] just also shows that in the future we do have collective power when we do speak on issues like this,” Damtew said.
The campus-wide mental health day may not have been approved, but that is not stopping students from continuing to advocate for themselves in the future.