Petition to cancel classes during Wellness Week grows in signatures

Over 1,700 students signed the petition

Petition to cancel classes during Wellness Week grows in signatures
A few students were still on campus on March 20.

A Change.org petition to cancel classes during American University’s upcoming Wellness Week that serves as an alternative to spring break has received over 1,700 signatures as of March 1.

To try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during spring break travel, the University canceled the traditional spring break, from March 7 to 13, and replaced it with Wellness Week, which requires students to attend classes. However, professors cannot assign any exams, quizzes, required readings or written assignments to be done outside of class.

However, many students are not happy with this alternative. AU Student Government President Eric Brock said the University never asked for students’ input when creating an alternative plan for spring break. 

"We could've worked together to create solutions that worked for students. They didn't meet with us, so how could we provide alternatives?” Brock said. "Students should be invited to the table."

Brock said the University is not doing a great job at explaining to students why they cannot cancel classes for a spring break. He said the University told him that since they pushed back the beginning of the spring semester by one week due to public health concerns, they need to hold classes in order to satisfy the 14-week minimum requirement of interaction between faculty and students.

“All classes will continue to meet as originally scheduled, so as to minimize the impact on required credit hours,” AU spokesperson Stacie Burgess said in an email. “It is important that classes meet the required number of times throughout the semester to adhere to our credit hour requirements and to ensure students receive the full spectrum of learning opportunities.”

Brock said he has tried to explain that to students who are coming to him with concerns.

Bilal Aksoy, a senior in the School of Public Affairs, shared the petition on Facebook and urged his peers to sign it. 

“We’re all overworked, we’re exhausted, especially juniors and seniors who have internships and are working part-time or full-time, we are on our screens 24/7,” Aksoy said. “I am in my room, working eight hours a day and then I go to school during the evenings. It’s a pain, and I need to unplug from my screen.”

Aksoy said some of his friends told him that they are not going to attend classes that week at all, even if their professors still hold them, which a majority are. He said for most of his classes, professors are bringing in speakers or teaching mini-lessons. 

“We’ve been going through six straight weeks, and we are going to go 14 weeks straight without a break, whereas last semester we had breaks here and there. We had Thanksgiving and fall break and now this semester, we don’t have anything,” he said. “I think it [Zoom fatigue] is worse this semester because of how long it has been.”

Burgess confirmed that the University will not make any changes to its plan for Wellness Week, despite the petition. In an email sent to the AU community, Acting Provost Peter Starr ensured students that professors will be mindful that the week is meant for rest. 

“We have also urged our faculty to be mindful not to load up on assignments directly before or after Wellness Week,” Starr wrote. “We encourage you to use this time free of homework and projects to recharge and focus on your personal wellness. Think about how the week can work for you, and the practices or strategies you can use to set a foundation for your own academic wellness.”

kcarolan@theeagleonline.com

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