University cancels classes for 2 days over pandemic stress; students offered ice cream, yoga and LEGO

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Students at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) who are stressed were able to relax, thanks to some time off, with the help of various children’s toys to cope with the difficulties of life.

Given the recent stressors, such as Covid-19’s “Omicron” variant, and the high death toll of roughly 0.0002% for those aged 20-49 (as of December 2020, prior to the vaccine), EIU gave students two days off in November.

The official announcement explained its rationale: “We recognize that mental health issues have increased on our campus and the broader community similar to other universities across the country. These issues have undoubtedly been exacerbated by the lingering pandemic which continues to create uncertainty and stress for our students. We hear this every day from students and concerned colleagues.”

The announcement also mentions as justification reports from its counseling department that students are utilizing its services and require extra support during this “especially difficult” year:

“We know that students are accessing critical campus services such as the Counseling Center and Medical Clinic that support student wellness. Additionally, we have received feedback from faculty, academic advisors, resident assistants, and tutors that the everyday challenges of navigating higher education are especially difficult this year for everyone.”

A variety of activities was made available for the days off, November 16th and 17th, to include some staples of modern liberal life like yoga and meditation, but also things like therapy dogs. A “conversation” about “healing” had quite the description, referring to such medical staples as “accessing our internal power to engage in the process of becoming and/or remembering our wholeness.”

While it is common for people of all ages to enjoy animal companionship such as puppies, usually people outgrow things like riding on tricycles and coloring books. Not so for the students at EIU, however, who were treated to these and other activities one usually might associate more with a preschool.

The honors college got into the act by providing ice cream (comfort foods were a staple of all activities) to enjoy while playing with LEGO bricks, a common hobby of children on the cusp of graduating preschool, and the bane of barefoot parents. Usually, however, the parents cursing the small, easy-to-lose bricks are parents of smaller children.

Other activities devoted to a “Self-Care Open House” had various ways for students to cope with the difficulties of life through such contrivances as “affirmation cards,” and a “words of encouragement jar,” and even a “spa-on-the-go kit.”

During “Diversi-Tea” with the Honors Dean, students trying to somehow cope with life are treated to tea and various sweets from different cultures, along with coloring books and crayons, perhaps requisitioned from some elementary school’s art supplies closet.

With such rigorous preparation for the challenges of life, students at EIU are certainly looking to stride boldly into the future, able to meet any challenge, as long as puppies and coloring books are provided.


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