With another semester of Zoom fatigue and pandemic paranoia looming over their heads, students and faculty fear they won’t have enough time to recharge their academic batteries in a term with only one official day off.
Because of this, D'Andra Mull, the UF Vice President for Student Affairs asked faculty to suspend their classes and exams for two days this Spring. The proposed Spring recharge days –Thursday, Feb. 25 and Wednesday, Mar. 24 – were created as an opportunity for students to rest during the Spring semester after UF canceled March Spring Break.
Although not a formal requirement, UF administration urged faculty to take the days off to encourage student health and well-being in an email sent on Dec. 21.
“We believe this will be much appreciated and needed by our students,” Mull wrote.
UF Student Affairs is teaming up with UF Performing Arts, Academic Affairs’ Wellness Collaborative and Student Government to bring socially distanced events and activities to campus on the recharge days, Mull wrote. The specifics of these activities are not currently available, but the email promised more information would be available to students soon.
“Our hope is that our Gator Recharge Days will allow students to take a well-deserved and much-needed break to renew their energy mid-semester,” Mull wrote in a statement.
In another email sent to students on Jan. 22, Mull shared several programs and initiatives to improve student experiences throughout the semester, including recharge days. Other enrichment programs will begin in the following weeks. UF will hold a Financial Wellness Week full of workshops and presentations to promote students’ financial skills starting Monday, Jan. 25.
Another program, a student training course on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as part of UF’s anti-racism initiatives, will become available soon. A third initiative is Gator STEP, a traffic enforcement program meant to strengthen safety on the streets surrounding campus.
“Promoting balance and supporting students' holistic wellness is a primary focus for this spring,” Mull wrote.
Maria Victoria Muñoz, a UF Spanish literature graduate student and an introductory Spanish class instructor, said she thinks recharge days are the second best option since Spring break was canceled.
Although many faculty were informed of these recharge days after finalizing their Spring syllabi, Muñoz – along with many others – chose to include the days off anyway. As both a graduate student and an undergraduate teacher, Muñoz believes recharge days will be beneficial to both groups.
“As students, we are also having recharge days, which makes it perfect,” she said. “If as an instructor you have the day off but not as a student, then there’s no recharge.”
Students in asynchronous classes are also worried about experiencing burnout this semester.
Bianca Barroso, an 18-year-old psychology freshman, is taking two asynchronous classes and one synchronous class that requires watching recorded lectures before class on the students’ own time. She said the professors of her asynchronous classes won’t decrease the number of assignments for that week, leaving students with nearly the same workload as a normal day of class.
Although the planned activities are meant as a way for students to let off steam amid the busy semester, Barroso said she plans to spend the days catching up on work, not recharging as UF intended.
J.D. Varn, a 19-year-old UF animal sciences sophomore, said it’s nice that UF is allowing students and faculty to rest.
However, only two of Varn’s five professors are implementing the recharge days, so he won’t get any additional days off of class this semester. Since he’s working at a consistent pace with his online classes, he said getting 50 extra minutes off isn’t enough for him to recharge.
“I think having a whole day off, which would also give professors a break, would probably be better for everyone than just having a couple periods sprinkled around,'' he said.
Contact Sofia Echeverry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @sofecheverry.
Sofia is a news assistant on The Alligator's university desk. This is her second semester at paper, where she previously worked as a translator for El Caimán.