Over 1,400 students sign petition requesting mental wellness days


On March 1, the Student Association launched a petition calling for the implementation of Spring 2021 Wellness Days — two days scattered throughout the remainder of the semester designated for mental health and wellness. 

The petition, created by SA President Sheryl Kambuni, calls on administration to approve mental wellness days for the student body. 

In the petition, Kambuni says:

“I am proposing two days dedicated to wellness that would give students the opportunity to get some much-needed sleep, catch up on difficult classes, and do other activities that promote rest in order to perform their best,” the petition read. “These days would be scattered between now and the end of the school semester, during which there would be no classes (in person or on Zoom) [and]  assignments due or tests.”

In an interview with the Accent Kambuni said the idea to implement mental wellness days came to her after hearing about the shortened Spring Break. 

“The reason behind shortening Spring Break was to lessen the amount of time that people can be off campus to get exposure [to the coronavirus],” Kambuni said. “But, it doesn’t cater to students’ needing breaks, so these [mental health days] would cater to that.”

The petition received a large amount of support from students reaching more than 1,000 signatures within the first 12 hours. As of March 8, the petition has over 1,440 signatures.

“I had spoken to some of the cabinet and they thought students would be receptive,” Kambuni said. “But we just hoped that once several students heard about it they would get behind it, because there is strength in numbers.” 

In the comment section of the petition, students have given various reasons for why they believe the days should be approved.

Nikki Nadler, freshman music major, supports the petition. 

“… I’m not a machine,” she said. “I need a day to be able to do things guilt free. I want to be able to decide to disinfect my room or take a moment with friends without feeling guilt and stress because I’m not spending all my time studying.” 

Lorne Owens, junior history major, notes that “there is a rise of depression because of the pandemic, [and] students’ grades are slipping.” 

The CDC has attributed rising rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse to the COVID-19 pandemic. As stress levels rise alongside COVID-19 case rates, many colleges are opting to hold “wellness days” instead of Spring Break. Universities nearby Southern, Lee University and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as well as larger universities such as Penn State, Duke University and Harvard, all have implemented some form of wellness days. 

“It is inhumane not to take into account the student’s mental health,” said Arian Dovald, junior physics major. 

As of March 3, the petition is being  reviewed by administration. Kambuni said any decision made by the administration will be communicated to students through the appropriate channels

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