Absurdity reared its head on campus this week when Relaxation Enhancing Study and Tranquility zones debuted. The new sleep pods scattered throughout UC Berkeley will cost roughly $100,000 — funded in part by the Wellness Fee — and accommodate only about 40 people at a time, causing us again to doubt the tepid yet ever-present hope that public institutions of higher education are built upon reason and sound money management.
Though the addition of the beds could encourage relaxation on campus, the simple fact is that spending $92,000 on nap spaces is spending too much on a surface-level solution. The steep price is hard to justify when so many deeper causes of campuswide mental health problems need immediate funding.
This isn’t to say that sleep cannot be part of the solution. In fact, conversations surrounding mental health are incomplete without also addressing sleep, and these beds have doubtlessly already helped at least a few students since they opened this week and promise to help even more.
But for the most part, students aren’t sleep-deprived because they lack established sleep zones on campus. They are sleep-deprived because of the often overwhelming pressures that they face. Some new chairs won’t change that, even if they are reminiscent of similar devices at the hyper-modern offices of Silicon Valley, such as those at Google. A campus that faces drastic budget shortfalls and imminent cuts is not suited to follow in the footsteps of Silicon Valley’s rich tech elites.
The money set aside for the creation of REST zones could have had a far greater impact on campuswide mental health. For example, with $92,000, campus and ASUC officials could have further expanded Tang Center counseling hours, or even allowed students six, rather than five, free counseling sessions. And because not all of that money has yet been spent, at the very least, the money that remains should go toward cheaper chairs, enabling greater volume.
This money is being spent just as many UC Berkeley students continue to suffer from housing and food insecurity, among other problems. And though neither these nor mental health should be prioritized at the expense of one another, the urgency of UC Berkeley’s budget problems requires that campus projects have as much impact per dollar as possible.
When the student body approved the Wellness Fee last spring, it was because we recognized the importance of both mental and physical health. We expected that the extra fee money be used in productive and impactful ways. Instead, $5,000 of it has gone into marketing and nap education.
Absent the ludicrous price tag, this project would surely be worthy of praise. But as it stands, this solution feels more like a catnap, when what we really need is a full night’s rest.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.
A previous version of this editorial may have also implied that the creation of the REST Zones and their furniture cost only $92,000. In fact, the project was funded $104,000, with $92,000 going to the ASUC and $12,000 to the Tang Center.
A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that $12,000 of the funds raised by the Wellness Fee have gone into marketing and nap education. In fact, about $5,000 was used for marketing and nap education.