April 1, 2022 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden | Photo by Gracie Roe

As Colorado College students left their classes on the first Monday of Block 7, they walked out into what was supposed to be an all-campus, 45-minute mental health pause.

In a school-wide email, President L. Song Richardson wrote, “From 11:15 a.m.-noon, the CC community will observe a united pause: no classes, no meetings; an opportunity for a break from busyness to take care of yourself.” However, this break wasn’t initially planned. According to the First Monday schedule online, this time was originally expected to be spent with David Williams, the Social and Behavioral department chair at Harvard University.

Williams canceled his scheduled talk with CC in January, according to Brenda Soto, CC’s Director of College Events and Interim Director of Alumni and Family Relations. According to Soto, the Events Committee chose not to find another speaker even though they had the time to do so. Instead, as a response to calls from the Colorado College Student Government Association and other student organizations, they chose to offer the 45 minutes of time for students to reflect on their mental health needs.

Lydia Hussain ‘24 used her pause time to get lunch within the Arts Department, though to her, this didn’t necessarily feel like a mental health break. Hussain feels that as a campus we could be making more time for mental health.

“I know CCSGA has been trying to get us a mental health day, and so far I don’t think CC has been very responsive to that,” she said.

One of her friends, who wished to remain anonymous, said that to her, this 45-minute break actually felt very rude. “There’s students that are really struggling and to give them only 45 minutes – I don’t even know what you do with 45 minutes,” she said.

As Hussain pointed out, CCSGA has been working towards providing students all-campus mental health days for a while.

CCSGA Parliamentarian Jane Abbott ‘22 said, “this time last year we did not have a spring break, and CCSGA recognized that people were just drained and we were in the middle of the pandemic. So essentially, ever since then, last year’s president, Sakina, and this year’s president, Deksyos, and the members of the executive council have been asking the administration for a mental health day.”

 “What happened around that ask [for time dedicated to mental health] was we lost a lot of traction because there was a lot of conversation around allowing professors to kind of have their own individual choice when it comes to which day to take off,” said Student Body President Deksyos Damtew ’22. “When it comes to a field trip or something and you don’t want to interrupt that, we could’ve been potentially shifting around peoples’ syllabi too swiftly.”

Damtew said they were met with a lot of resistance, mostly from some faculty members on campus.

“Not to say that that’s a bad thing, because the reason why this resistance is going on is because of the way that the block plan is structured,” he said. “These professors are under such tight parameters to teach in those given timeframes that taking that day away would make their plans much more complicated.”

Colorado College, when faced with the impetus from the student government to make time for mental health, carved out only 45 minutes. Damtew said as a response, “Is this sustainable? Is this a system that we can keep, if finding a day for us was this hard to do as a campus and come together, then it does feel a lot of times as if there’s a ‘take care of yourself, you’re on your own’ vibe.”

The school did acknowledge that this pause was not their solution for calls for better mental health scheduling.

According to the CC website, “While taking this time out on the first Monday of the block is not enough time to address the complexity of mutual care during this pandemic, the hope is that this is the first of many collective pauses for the campus community, and will spark a continued conversation about finding long-term solutions to combating the sense of urgency that many students, staff, and faculty feel on the Block Plan.”

It is clear, however, that for some students this pause was not sufficient in making space for mental health. “Again, it’s so rude,” Hussain’s friend said, “It wasn’t intentional, it’s just like it’s just there when it’s convenient.”

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