Staff Editorial: In being cautious about COVID, Guilford sacrifices student mental health

This semester at Guilford has been a long one for students, faculty and staff. Due to COVID-19, and a decision by the College, students were not granted a spring break this year. The College made this decision out of caution. If students were all given a week off, the assumption is that they would travel across the country, maybe not be careful enough and bring the coronavirus back to campus—infecting the Guilford community. While being cautious about COVID is a good thing, it has been damaging and exhausting for students to go through the entire 12-week without so much as a few days off. 

Guilford has a responsibility to be mindful of its students as well as the coronavirus. While it is true that having a traditional spring break would heighten the possibility of community spread upon students’ return, there are other ways that students could be given time off to recharge. One way to handle this with more foresight would have been to give students wellness days throughout the 12-week session. That way, students would have had small breaks to recharge without having the week-long opportunity to travel and contract COVID.

Some efforts are being made now to institute wellness days, or at least wellness activities, for students. A few professors are giving their students a day or two off from classes under the title of wellness days. Additionally, the Counseling Center and Office of Student Leadership and Engagement (OSLE) coordinated a Week of Wellness which began Monday, March 22 and runs through Friday, March 26. Activities during the week include a community COVID memorial, music therapy and a drum circle, muscle relaxation, naptime and social justice games via Zoom, a walk in the woods with new Interim President Jim Hood and an Easter egg and scavenger hunt.

Although these activities are a thoughtful way to help students make it through the end of the 12-week, this action is not enough. The College’s approach to wellness days for students is coming too little, too late, and many students are struggling to finish out the 12-week—after which there will be only a short break before moving into the three-week intensive. The fear of COVID is reasonable given the fact that we are still in a global pandemic, but the College needed to take students’ wellness into consideration before the semester started and incorporate breaks into the spring calendar. The pandemic and having classes over Zoom already has been incredibly overwhelming to many students, and forgoing a spring break is adding insult to injury.  

If you’re a student who is struggling just to find the motivation to make it through the semester, we hear you, we understand what you’re going through and we stand with you. Though it is no substitute for not having mental health days, the College is hosting some activities that offer a way to get out, socialize and not think about school for a little while. In addition to the Week of Wellness, CAB also will host Serendipity this year. Though it wasn’t well publicized, Serendipity week kicked off on March 20 with an event in Founders Hall, featuring starter pack giveaways, an escape room and mocktails.

The first event of the week was on March 22, with a double-feature movie under the stars hosted on the Founders quad. A fashion show on the Founders quad and a Summer Fairytale formal followed on March 24. If you missed these two events, don’t worry, there’s more. On Friday, March 26, there’s Lakefest (one of the bigger Serendipity events) from 12 p.m.-5 p.m by the Lake, which will feature Colorfest and a special performance by CNC. Friday night, you can check out the silent disco on the Milner/Bryan quad from 7 p.m.-10 p.m., where there will be three DJs. 

These events can’t replace our much-needed and lost spring break, but they are an opportunity to have some fun as the 12-week finally comes to a close. In the midst of the pandemic and this rigorous semester at Guilford, remember your mental health is still important, and wellness should still come first.