First wellness day stirs mixed reviews from Miami students

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Photo by Susan Coffin

Oxford resident Isaac Coffin peeks out the door of the quinzee Canadian snow shelter, built by the staff of Miami’s Outdoor Pursuit Center, Wednesday afternoon in Peffer Park. The event was part of Miami’s Wellness Day program.

Miami University’s first wellness day in a series of five replacement days for spring break took place Wednesday. With classes canceled, students are encouraged to relax and work on their well-being.

The wellness days were created this year as a substitute for the typical five-day spring break. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami eliminated spring break to discourage student travel and possible spread of the virus.

“Miami’s approach was focused on maintaining safety while also giving students a break,” said Jessica von Zastrow, student body vice president of Associated Student Government (ASG).

When the days were originally introduced to students, they were called “reading days.” However, ASG believed this phrasing would encourage students to work on their days off.

“Instead, we decided to advocate for a change in language to focus on well-being. By naming our days ‘wellness days,’ students have permission to take a break and focus on their own well-being,” said von Zastrow.

The university directed professors to not assign work Wednesday to give students a break. Some students found it hard to shut out school completely.

“It was extremely tough to tune work and homework off, and I found myself struggling to encourage my friends to do so too,” said Carolyn Scully, a Miami senior.

Other students opposed the wellness day. Sophomore Katherine Mitchell found the midweek break from school disruptive to her academic schedule.

“Wellness days take away from our class time. Any instruction time we do get, especially in this virtual climate, is valuable,”  Mitchell said. 

Some students were also frustrated by their professors’ distribution of homework, especially assignments and exams due after the wellness day. With increased academic workloads, some students felt like they had to force themselves to relax. 

“My wellness day was pretty relaxing because I forced it to be somewhat relaxing,” said Miami sophomore Hailee Perry. “I did take breaks. I went uptown with one of my friends and got lunch and Starbucks.”

Doug Coffin and his son Isaac sample some of the international teas offered up in the MacMillan Hall parking lot by the International Student Center, Wednesday during Miami’s “wellness day.” Photo by Susan Coffin 

Some campus groups sponsored wellness day activities. The International Student Center offered a take-a-cup-to-go international tea tasting station in the MacMillan Hall parking lot.

The Outdoor Pursuit Center’s staff set up a quinzee Canadian snow shelter demonstration in Peffer Park. According to the group, a quinzee is a traditional snow shelter made by hollowing out a large pile of packed snow. 

When students did choose to relax, they spent their day doing things that brought them joy.

“Overall, I enjoyed the wellness day. I spent the day exercising, making brunch with my roommate and watching movies,” said Scully.

“I enjoyed my wellness day by sleeping in and reading a book for fun,” added von Zastrow.