Student-started petition calling for mental health day gains traction

The lack of a fall break leads over 1,500 students to sign a petition calling for a mental health day.


A student studies remotely, outside of the classroom. (Hustler Multimedia)

Annabelle Abbott

On Oct. 6, sophomore Deveandre Johnson began a petition calling for Vanderbilt to grant students one day off to benefit overall mental health.

The petition was started at around 1 p.m. CDT, and by 7:30 p.m. CDT, it had gained 1,000 signatures, surpassing its original goal of 500. As of publication, it stands at 1,523 signatures.

“It was a spur of the moment decision. I was exhausted and overwhelmed with all my classes, and everyone around me felt the same,” Johnson said. “We’re not asking for a lighter workloadjust a small break because there’s so much going on in the world on top of transitioning to online classes like COVID, racial tensions, elections, hurricanes and fires.”

Johnson is in the process of creating a group that advocates on behalf of the movement. The group would allow students to speak through their shared concerns and potentially bring them to the administration’s attention. Johnson hopes that the majority of students will get behind the movement.

“I feel like Vanderbilt did not think about students’ mental health when drawing up the calendar,” first-year Cheyenne Figaro said. “I know a lot of people who are sleep deprived and/or anxious. Students seem to have everything else but COVID.”

Johnson and Figaro report that the Zoom format of classes have contributed to their exhaustion. Figaro went on to say that the format makes it hard for students to focus without distractions. Those distractions also make it hard for students to retain information, Figaro added. 

Johnson and Figaro are both disappointed by Vanderbilt’s lack of effort in prioritizing mental health especially in regards to the Return to Campus plan for the spring semester, released on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

“Vanderbilt is pushing a grind culture. We are humans and cannot just work endlessly,” Johnson said.

Figaro also stated that despite the mental health resources available on campus, students don’t have time to utilize them given the current academic calendar.

A university spokesperson said in an email response to The Hustler that the university is committed to student well-being and wishes to balance that with public health precautions.

“University leaders will be asking faculty in the coming weeks to consider the rate and pacing of the spring semester in their design of course curriculums—and think about the range of needs that might arise with having a 15-week block schedule without a spring break,” the email reads.