SGA mental health resolution is a step in the right direction


Hunter Newsham/SGA Instagram

The SGA student senate at their final meeting of the semester on November 22, 2021.

Kathryn Williams, Editor-In-Chief

At the final student senate meeting of the fall semester, SGA voted to approve a resolution that aims to implement one mental health day per semester into the academic calendar. The resolution was brought to the senate by class of 2024 senators Hannah Peterson and Kevin Macarelli. All but one senator voted yes on the resolution. 

The main arguments for the resolution were similar to many I have written about in previous editorials and have heard from conversations with students across campus. The general idea is that a mental health day can be a break for students in whatever way they need. Whether it be a day to sleep in, catch up on work, or spend time with friends. 

Senator Jake Lamontagne from the class of 2023 spoke out in opposition to this resolution. He argued that one mental health day would not help everyone because it’s not a one-size-fits-all issue. Other senators spoke up to explain how while this argument is correct, it does not accurately reflect the intent behind the mental health day. The mental health day is meant to be a break however the student sees fit, it’s not going to solve every single person’s mental health challenges. 

One area of the resolution that seems a bit unclear to me is that the dates of the mental health days would be preferably unknown to students. Senator Peterson explained that SGA would work with the administration to schedule mental health days into the academic calendar so faculty could plan ahead but students would not know the dates long in advance. She also noted that they would like to work with the mental health committee to plan on-campus events for the day, such as food trucks or sharing mental health tips. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the mental health committee is made up of students, so wouldn’t they know the date in advance? If a group of students on campus knew the date, it’s unlikely it would remain a total secret. 

I believe that the idea of keeping students in the dark about the date comes from the “snow day” of last year, where the College didn’t want students to make plans for large gatherings or off-campus trips. The question is, are these concerns still necessary and will they be for next year? If a concern for letting students know the date in advance is partying, then I hate to break it to you but it doesn’t take very long for college students to get a party going. Whether you give them 3 months or 3 hours notice, those who want to party will. Is it the best way to spend a mental health day, probably not, but they are adults who can make their own decisions.

The second concern may be students planning to go off-campus. In 2020 when we had the “snow day” this made sense because there were no Covid vaccines and we needed to maintain a bubble of protection. While the pandemic continues and we should all still take precautions to protect our community from Covid, vaccines and masks have made off-campus travel much safer. So do we really need to hide the date from students? Getting off-campus can be tremendously impactful for mental health, whether it be going for a hike with friends or going out to lunch with family. Perhaps it could be a benefit to students to know the date in advance so they can make plans and spend their mental health day how they want to. 

The greatest issue with last year’s attempt at a mental health day was how it affected scheduling since faculty and students were surprised. It is definitely a good idea to work mental health days into the academic calendar so that professors can plan for them accordingly. It should go without saying that students should not be assigned additional work simply because they have an extra day to do it. It would be beneficial for this to be explicitly stated somehow in the resolution before it is implemented to preserve the freedom of students on their mental health day. 

Overall I was incredibly happy to see this resolution be approved by the student senate. Although there is room for improvement, I am hopeful that SGA and the college administration can work together to provide students with mental health days in the 2022-2023 school year.