March 11, 2022 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden | Illustration by Kira Schulist
Colorado College heavily advertises its block plan to students, parents, and philanthropists alike. According to the admissions webpage the block plan allows students the opportunity to “focus [their] energies on one class at a time.”
However, the reality of learning an entire semester’s worth of curriculum in less than one month may be more difficult than advertised. Taking time for mental health on the block plan can feel, for some, like an afterthought, especially since CC doesn’t build in any time for school-wide mental health days.
Other education institutions across the U.S. have started to adopt school-wide mental health days, a trend that has only accelerated throughout the pandemic. As school districts were hit hard with expectations for quarantining, online schooling, and concerns for safety, students started to request time off to take care of themselves.
The benefits of mental health days can vary, but according to the National Education Association, having students take time for their mental health can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health concerns and in some cases can make students more productive when they return to the classroom.
As the pandemic drags on, students, staff, and faculty continue to feel its effects. At CC, testing positive for COVID-19 likely means a quarantine of five days. Some classes are still being hosted over Zoom, especially in the wake of the school’s mask-optional policy. For some students, especially those with preexisting conditions, the threat of long COVID remains a point of stress.
However, throughout the entirety of the pandemic, CC has not elected to implement any school-wide mental health days. Part of this is a scheduling reality: with only three-and-a-half weeks in a class, mental health days can be hard to fit in. Ultimately, having one school-wide mental health day a block would probably mean the block breaks would become three days long rather than four.
While discussions on mental health seem to have become more accepted in the public sphere, it seems schools view it as more of an individual issue as opposed to a community problem.
Last April, the Colorado College Student Government Association (CCSGA) sent an appeal to faculty, proposing two campus wide mental health days between that time and the end of Block 8.
This request came in response to the pandemic, as well as an altered academic calendar that did not include spring break. Faculty denied the appeal, “citing the disproportionate impacts on students in prerequisite classes, difficulty in finding a day that worked for all classes, and the worry of shifting around syllabi so quickly.” Decisions for mental health days, CCSGA added, would have to come at the discretion of individual professors.
Some professors have taken the initiative to build designated mental health days into their classes.
“I took Intro to Feminist and Gender Studies and every Monday we were given off for mental health days,” said Mackenzie Boyd ’24.
Boyd says that these days were a blessing throughout an incredibly busy class. They gave her time to do things she hadn’t had time to do otherwise like go for a walk, do laundry, or schedule a therapy session.
The Catalyst reached out to Emily Chan, current dean of faculty and vice president for Academic Affairs, for more information on the topic but did not receive a response.
A list of local and national mental health services can be found here.