Undergraduate Student Government developing plan to provide mental health days in the spring

In light of University of Iowa’s cancellation of student break to prevent travel-borne spread of COVID-19, USG is working with UI administrators to institute mental health break days for students.


Hannah Kinson

UI Interim Provost and Executive Vice President, Kevin Kregel, speaks at a press conference on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020 in the IMU 2nd floor ballroom. Kregel said the university is holding TA orientations and online workshops to ensure classroom safety in the fall.

Clinton Garlock, News Reporter

In light of the University of Iowa canceling spring break this academic year, Undergraduate Student Government is currently working with administrators with the hopes to institute “mental-health days” to alleviate student stress.

The UI announced on Sept. 14 that spring break in 2021 will be canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan. The university said it will extend winter break by one week and resume spring 2021 classes in a similar format to the fall semester.

Undergraduate Student Government President Connor Wooff said he’s been talking with many university administrators and stakeholders, including the UI President’s and Provost’s offices, the UI Dean of Students Angie Reams, and various campus partners, to figure out a way to support students with a break that would not lead to mass travel and potential virus spread.

“My immediate thought was ‘how are we going to support students with this really long stretch of academic course load without any significant break?’” Wooff said.

Wooff said he would ideally like to avoid three-day weekends which could encourage students to leave campus, so he wants these breaks to be scattered throughout the semester on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

“I would love to see breaks within the week, so a day where the university says we won’t have any academic courses, and we’re going to encourage faculty to not have assignments or readings due that day,” Wooff said.

He said the spring mental-health break proposal is still under development, and that if the risk COVID-19 poses to the student body changes, he would follow the recommendations of public-health experts.

RELATED: No spring break at UI, classes to remain in hybrid format for spring semester, As coronavirus spreads, University of Iowa students shift spring break plans

UI interim Provost Kevin Kregel wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that the UI is considering implementing smaller breaks from instruction during the spring semester.

“The decision to change the spring semester calendar was not one that was made lightly … in the place of spring break, we are exploring having a limited number of instructional days during the Spring 2021 semester to give faculty and students a brief respite from instruction,” Kregel said. “We will share more as plans are finalized.”

UI freshman Kim Lybrand said she was surprised when she heard the university was canceling spring break, but she understands its reasoning.

“It seems like it should have been expected with people traveling and coming back, so it makes sense,” said Lybrand.

Both Lybrand and UI College of Public Health first-year Isabel Thomas said the proposed mental-health breaks would be a good idea.

“In past years I know by the time I hit spring break I was always like ‘wow, I really needed that break,’” Lybrand said.

Thomas said canceling spring break could cause students’ grades to slip, as well.

“It does kind of suck to be like, nonstop chug from January to May, which I could see a lot of people’s grades slipping off if you don’t just get that break,” Thomas said. “But overall I understand why the administration had to do it.”