Brandeis holds Wellness Day for stressed students
Planned by the Student Union, "Wellness Day" included programming from different organizations on campus.
Fellows Garden was bustling with bubble tea, ice cream, puppies, and more on Friday, March 25. These treats were all part of “Wellness Day,” planned by the Division of Student Affairs and the Student Union.
Student Union President Krupa Sourirajan ’23, who spearheaded "Wellness Day," explained to the Justice in a March 25 interview that mental health has been a dominant focus during her term. The idea for a wellness day emerged after Sourirajan realized that students were getting burnt out during the seven-week stretch between the February and Passover breaks, a time filled with midterms.
“I thought that students could really use a break. So I talked to President Liebowitz around February break and Courtney Thrun, my Vice President, and I, we sat down with him and kind of explained to him why students are going to feel the burnout during this seven-week period from one break to the next break,” Sourirajan said. Since it was already well into the semester, it was difficult to implement real long-term solutions, so instead they decided that a good alternative would be to give students a day-off.
Many clubs and organizations hosted activities or programming for this day, including the Office of Graduate Affairs; Athletics; Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center; the Dean of Students Office; the Gender and Sexuality Center; Triskelion; the Intercultural Center; and Student Sexuality Information Services. Activities included crafts, lawn games, carnival games, a wellness walk, and more.
Sourirajan hoped for a Monday or Wednesday off, “so it would really feel like a day off,” but the only day the University was able to provide was a Friday. While not all professors were able to cancel their classes on Friday because of previously planned tests or lectures, Sourirajan and Thrun asked Provost Carol Fierke and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Dorothy Hodgson to “encourage faculty to give a ‘day off.’” The two recommended that if professors could not cancel their classes, they do something different and engaging during their time. “For example, if you’re in a physics class, you might be playing with slinkys and learning about wave motions and things like that,” Sourirajan said.
Another challenge with planning a wellness day is that “any time you bring up an idea to administration, you need to get a lot of backing for it, you need a lot of evidence, so it was a lot to plan,” Sourirajan said. She spent around 15-20 hours thinking about how she was going to present the idea to President Liebowitz, including coming up with an abundance of back-up plans, since she was not ready to take “no” for an answer.
Liebowitz agreed with Sourirajan and Thrun about the need for a wellness day. Although her term ends this semester, Sourirajan is hoping that “I can create some sort of schedule with President Liebowitz and Provost Fierke moving forward for the next three academic years of surprise days off within the semester,” she said.
Not giving students a lot of notice about the day was intentional, according to Sourirajan. She explained that by not telling students too far in advance, the hope was that they would actually take the day off rather than using the time to catch up on work. This system has been successful at other institutions, according to Sourirajan, so she is hopeful the same will be true here. If wellness days continue in the future, they will likely be in the spring semester as there are multiple days off in the fall semester due to various Jewish holidays.
From the perspective of the Student Union President who spends a lot of time working behind the scenes with the administration, Sourirajan believes that university officials do care a lot about the well-being of students and are very cognizant of their needs. She explained that the administration definitely has good intentions, but not all students are able to see that since it mostly occurs behind closed doors. She believes that there is room for improvement in “making sure they [the University] are as transparent as possible and that they are being really effective in marketing and social media so that everyone can see that.”
For Sourirajan, the goal of wellness day is “just to have students take some time off for themselves,” and she hopes it becomes a new tradition that will live on in the future.