The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday May 16th

Students and faculty express concerns over one-day instruction pause

Kendall Harrow, a sophomore economics major, works on an assignment on her computer at the UNC Student Store on Wednesday, Oct. 9th, 2019.
Buy Photos Kendall Harrow, a sophomore economics major, works on an assignment on her computer at the UNC Student Store on Wednesday, Oct. 9th, 2019.

UNC asked faculty to pause instruction Friday in observance of World Mental Health Day. But some students feel that just one pause before taking on the rest of the fall semester isn't enough. 

Anna Dean, a first-year student at UNC, said even though she does not personally feel she needs the pause, she could see how some students may need the break. 

But for those who need it, she said, a day-long pause is not enough.

“I'm sure that it could be beneficial like even having a three-day weekend just to not think about school,” she said. “I think it could be really beneficial to people, but obviously it would be a bit nicer if they give us a little more time.”

The University announcement said the instruction pause would not be a mandatory day off. Instead, UNC allowed professors to decide for themselves whether or not to cancel classes, extend deadlines and adjust their teaching plans.

UNC Media Relations said the academic calendar does not allow for the University to provide a full day off. 

“This pause might include, but is not limited to: changing a live lecture to a recorded one to be watched at a later date, postponing the due date of a paper or rescheduling a quiz,” Media Relations said in an email. “We believe that faculty flexibility and compassion on this day, and throughout the semester, will support and facilitate better student mental health.” 

Before the University made the decision, students started a petition called “Mental Health Break for Tar Heels,” which received over 3,000 signatures.

Katie Horn, a senior who helped start the petition, said one of her professors canceled class, and another asked students if they needed it to be canceled or turned into an asynchronous lecture. 

Horn said she felt the University has done its part to suggest professors give their students a little break, and now it is on students to ask their professors for the day off.

“So then just every single person needs to go to their professors like, ‘Listen, I'm actually struggling,’ to just be honest about it, and then I think professors, they care about us, they'll do with that information what they should do,” Horn said.

But Dean said she does not feel it is a true pause because it is optional for professors to implement. On Saturday, Dean told The Daily Tar Heel she had a midterm scheduled for the paused day — and she had not yet heard from her professor about whether or not it would be rescheduled.

“If you make it optional, some teachers might do it,” she said. “But like, they have a schedule to keep, and if they aren't forced to rework it, I don't think professors are going to want to do it. Not that I think they should be expected to like, it is pretty much last minute sprung on them.”

Desiree Griffin, a teaching associate professor in the psychology department, said she does not have a Friday class this semester. But she is planning to extend the deadline for a class assignment that is due on Friday. 

She said even though her teaching plan will not be affected much by the pause, it might be harder for other professors to adjust their teaching plans.

“It is already a tight semester in terms of days, especially since there was a pause at the beginning of the semester when everyone had to move off campus,” she said. “When you take that and you coupled with another pause, it is an added stressor for some faculty because now they have lost one more day of content — especially if they teach on a Friday.”

Griffin said the decision of whether or not professors should cancel classes and extend deadlines should be based on the weight between the cost and benefit of doing so, and the best decision is the one that can promote better work on behalf of students. 

She also said if a professor is hesitant about taking the pause, it does not necessarily mean they do not care about their students.

“It's probably just they feel compelled to make sure that you get the content and make sure that they're not sacrificing the education that you've paid for,” she said.

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