Fall break proposed for mental health  

By Amethyst Martinez 

LEADERS within the Rider community have called for a fall break to be added to the academic calendar due to ongoing national mental health concerns for college students. The proposal for the break, which would begin in fall 2024, now has to go through the University Academic Policy Committee (UAPC), who determines the academic calendar. 

The proposal was signed by Provost DonnaJean Fredeen, Vice President for Student Affairs, Leanna Fenneberg, Rider Counseling Center Director, Anissa Moody and Associate Dean of Students, Christine Mehlhorn. 

According to the proposal, “Offering mental health days can support students’ mental health and well-being, academic success, cognitive and emotional functioning and retention while reducing stigma and increasing awareness of available resources.” 

The break, which would take place after midterms, giving students a four day weekend, came up as an idea to let students and faculty “take a deep breath,” according to Fredeen. 

“Setting aside two days in the semester gives you a bigger break, and bigger opportunity to take not only just that deep breath, but then exhale,” said Fredeen. “We as an institution want to take initiative…that will help support our students, and I think that’s very important.” 

According to a fall 2022 Healthy Minds Study listed in the proposal, 13% of Rider students reported to have considered suicide in the past year and 25 medical leaves of absences for mental health reasons also occurred at the university in the past year. 

Mehlhorn said, “There’s a lot to balance, but I think it would be a miss for us not to at least ask, propose, and advocate for our students to give them a break in the fall.” 

Before Westminster Choir College (WCC) moved to the Lawrenceville campus, their academic calendar included an “intermezzo,” which gave students and faculty the opportunity for a fall break. The committee was tasked with deciding if WCC should continue this at the Lawrenceville campus, but ultimately was taken out. 

Fredeen said WCC faculty referred to the break as “heaven” for faculty, as well as students. 

“So much has changed with our student body and particularly since the pandemic,” said Fredeen. “We have noticed issues with mental health among our students, [and] it’s a national trend.” 

The idea started after a student wrote to Leanna Fenneberg, who then helped the proposal come into fruition. 

“The proposal seeks to implement a fall break mid-semester as a proactive step to release academic pressures for students, aligned with campus efforts to purposefully focus on student health and well-being,” said Fenneberg in an email to The Rider News. 

Two potential dates were offered: Oct. 12-15, 2024, or Oct. 19-22, 2024. Ways that were offered to include this in the calendar were adding days either at the beginning or end of the semester to accommodate for the break period. 

The proposal cited other schools who partake in a fall break, such as Rockhurst University, Palm Beach Atlantic, Seton Hill, Sewanee, Huntington University and University of Richmond. 

“What we’re really talking about here is that need to be able to recenter yourself and just feel like you have that long weekend,” said Fredeen. “I just think that break would be very important for our students and our faculty.” 

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