For many students, finals week means coffee, papers, vending machine snacks and exams. From Dec. 4 to Dec. 14, De-Stress December, an annual initiative aiming to help students relax and cope with the stress of finals, will offer special events to help students get through the end of the semester with their mental and physical health intact.
The initiative, spearheaded by the Dean of Students Office, was created in 2012 by Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and Dean of Students April Thompson with the goal of providing fun and productive events that offer a break from studying. For the past two years, it has been organized by Matt Johnson, the University Union building coordinator. According to Johnson, the initiative provides a way for students to keep their mental health in check during finals.
“We know finals are extremely stressful for students so we want to be able to create an outlet for that stress,” Johnson said. “By providing these study breaks, students are going to be able to study more effectively and stay healthy mentally.”
The initiative consists of free events sponsored by different departments across campus and includes free snacks, coffee and events with therapy dogs.
Jason McKenna, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, said the events were helpful for stressed students.
“It’s important,” McKenna said. “It gives kids a distraction from hectic schoolwork and helps them realize what’s causing their stress.”
To host an event, departments submit a form online to Johnson and explain the purpose of the event and its location. Johnson reviews all initiatives and decides if they’ll be added to the De-Stress December schedule. All events must occur within the De-Stress December time period, provide moments of interaction or relaxation for students, comply with the Code of Student Conduct, occur on campus and be open to all students. This year, seven student groups and 22 campus departments submitted 35 initiatives, up from 15 departments last fall.
“It’s fun to see the different organizations that get involved,” Johnson said. “This year the [E.W. Heier Teaching & Research] Greenhouses are hosting Study in Serenity and letting students study in a more peaceful environment. Those are the ideas that we love to see from departments we wouldn’t normally think would submit.”
Binghamton University Dining Services (BUDS), Campus Recreation and Residential Life will also be participating in De-Stress December. According to John Enright, the general manager of resident dining for BUDS, which was involved in last year’s initiative, BUDS will be offering cookies and fruit within a different dorm location each night and hosting Cram Jam, a late-night study session with a breakfast-for-dinner menu on Dec. 11 from 10 p.m. to midnight in the College-in-the-Woods Dining Hall.
“We think the initiative is very important,” Enright said. “Students put a lot of effort in their learning, so if we can give them a piece of fruit or some ice cream to help ease the pressure, then we’re happy to do so.”
Campus Recreation will be participating by providing free group fitness at the East Gym. Even if they are not gym members, students can participate in the classes already on the group fitness schedule by showing their student ID card at the FitSpace desk. Joseph Burns, building manager of the East Gym and a senior majoring in industrial systems engineering, said he has noticed an increase in students coming in since the start of De-Stress December.
“Roughly the same number of members have been coming in, but there is definitely an increase in nonmembers,” Burns said. “We’ve already had a number of phone calls inquiring about the free fitness classes.”
But despite free food, fitness classes and community building, the most popular de-stress events on campus seem to be those revolving around animals. Nikki Napolitani, a junior majoring in psychology, said she made time to go to Pet-a-Pooch on Thursday afternoon.
“Being around the dogs helps me forget about my stress,” Napolitani said.