Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair and Associate Dean for Inclusion and Belonging Alta Mauro discussed the effectiveness of wellness days and the rise in anti-Asian attacks across the country in an interview Tuesday.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences instituted wellness days — five days throughout the semester when Faculty of Arts and Sciences courses do not meet — to replace a traditional spring break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These sporadic breaks have received mixed reviews from students, with some deeming them “relaxing” and others viewing them as “more time to do homework.”
Though she said she believes Harvard affiliates are “making the most” out of wellness days, O’Dair said she hopes this semester is the only time the College will have to forgo the typical week-long spring break to reduce travel.
“I think students and staff with whom I’ve spoken to understand why we need wellness days, but no one really loves wellness days — they would prefer to have a week of spring break,” she said. “I hope this is the only time that we have to replace a week of spring break with wellness days. Perhaps there will be other times where wellness days will be something additional.”
O’Dair and Mauro also spoke about the recent rise in anti-Asian violence across the United States. In the past year, roughly 3,800 anti-Asian attacks were reported, according to the center Stop AAPI Hate.
Mauro said it was “really important” to acknowledge the roots of this increase in violence.
“Many other residential communities hosted conversation circles and opportunities for people to be in dialogue about a range of responses, and members of the EDI team, among other colleagues, were helpful in supporting the race relations tutors, who really convened a lot of those spaces where people took their raw emotion or came to learn more about histories of violence,” she said. “For some people, we know that they're learning about this as a historic phenomenon for the first time.”
Maura added that the DSO is thinking of ways to support Harvard affiliates as they try to understand these events.
“We’ve been thinking about ways to be present in the moment and hold space for people to process immediate feelings,” she said. “But then also what would be some ongoing ways that we would respond to —not only this violence — but also to the oppression that lingers.”
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