Students using mental health days to complete assignments

Wellness days are designated as a break for students with no assignments due. However, SGA reported nearly 61 percent of students are still receiving work on wellness days.

Cayla Cade, Staff Writer

After a long semester, Morgan State University starts to conclude the year with its final wellness day on Friday.

Wellness days originated in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic as many students, faculty and staff struggled throughout the semester.

The Student Government Association (SGA) pitched the idea of mental health breaks to key members of the university’s administration in the spring 2021 semester. 

SGA President Jamera Forbes and Vice President Dai’Shona Jones pitched the initiative again to keep wellness days going for the 2021-2022 academic school year. 

In the fall, there were two separate wellness days on Oct. 22 and Nov. 24. However, the number of wellness days was assigned differently this semester.

The annual spring break was designated as a “wellness week” from March 13 to 19. The only separate wellness day is this Friday.

According to Phyllis Keys, interim associate vice president for academic affairs, there cannot be too many wellness days in the school year because the university has to maintain a certain number of class time hours based on the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR.)

Keys said, “So COMAR is a set of regulations on what you must do in order for students to earn a degree within the state of Maryland.” 

Keys continued, “The code says that for a student or three credit hours, in a class, for example, there has to be approximately three hours of contact time, and it has to total 42 hours for the term.”

To meet the COMAR requirement, students must attend 14 weeks, or 42 sessions, of a class. With a 15-week semester calendar, the limitation would allow at least three wellness days per semester.

As wellness days are intended for students to focus on their mental health, professors are not permitted to assign work that is due on the designated dates.

Wellness days are a day of rest. Students can go for a walk, read a book, do yoga or anything considered a break to help improve their mental health.

Receiving assignments on days assigned to give students those breaks puts a stint on the initiative.

The Student Government Association organized a poll for students to share their opinions on wellness days last semester and received 77 responses.

SGA reported that 80.3 percent found wellness days beneficial while 19.7 percent disagreed. 78.9 percent of students said their teachers canceled classes on wellness day while 21.1 percent said their teachers did not. 

Although professors are instructed not to assign work due on wellness days, 60.6 percent of students had assignments due and only 39.4 percent did not. 

The Student Government Association provided an update on wellness days in the February Board of Regents meeting. (Student Government Association)

There are currently no consequences for the professors who continue to assign work on wellness days.

Keys said wellness days are set at the beginning of the school year and professors are instructed to check the academic calendar and base their syllabus schedule around the dates. 

There are also mass emails sent to professors as a reminder not to give homework assignments or projects with due dates on wellness days. 

In the report, SGA said, “We found that many students appreciate the wellness days however, they do not feel like they were well planned and many professors [do] not take it seriously.” 

Some students like Roosevelt Wandji, a freshman civil engineering major, used the spring break wellness week to complete assignments and catch up in their classes.

Abriana Day, a junior psychology major, said she also spent her wellness week catching up on work even though her teachers did not assign anything

“The stuff that I should have been doing like the weeks prior, I was doing it during my break. So that was pretty much why it was stressful,” said Day. 

If students experience due dates for homework and projects during wellness days, they are encouraged to inform SGA members or the dean of their school.  

Jones said, “We can’t fix what we don’t know.” 

Students do not have to wait until next semester or a wellness day to focus on their mental health. Although the counseling center is not directly involved with wellness days, it is still a source to use. 

The counseling center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Holmes Hall 326.