Speak Out: We Need A Break

Three no-new-learning days next semester are not enough.

<p>Maggie Getzin, DN Illustration</p>

Maggie Getzin, DN Illustration

If you are feeling your mental health slipping or you are overwhelmed with stress, please do not hesitate to contact the Ball State University Health Center at 765-285-8431 or the Ball State University Counseling Center at 765-285-1736. 

Emily Hunter is a sophomore journalism major and writes “Speak Out” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

Before I stepped onto campus as a sophomore this fall, I knew it was going to be nothing like my freshman year. Classes were online, fall break was canceled and students moved home for the semester right before Thanksgiving. At the time, I couldn’t tell if the lack of rest fall break and Labor Day provided would even make a difference in the semester. 

After struggling through over half of the semester, I can tell you it has.

Before I came to college, my dad gave me the best advice I’ve ever heard for time management: The amount of time spent studying outside of class should equal the amount of time you are in class. That way, you have a set amount of time to focus on school and a set amount of time to unwind and do whatever else you need to do. 

This worked great last year, but the rule became blurred as I navigated this semester in my pajamas on my twin bed. We can’t have designated study time because we don’t have designated class times anymore. Time management has become more difficult than it has ever been. 

The amount of schoolwork increased as well. From my perspective, professors are trying to make up for the fact that we aren’t in class by giving more assignments — because we obviously have more time on our hands. But the worst part isn’t the assignments, time management or even the masks — it’s the fact that it’s all never-ending. 

On the outside, there is an illusion that the lack of breaks provides a payout — we push through most of the semester and will get a longer break at Thanksgiving. But when you look further, you realize that, while we’ll be sent home, we will still have classes to attend and assignments to complete. The only difference between what we were doing on campus and what we are doing now is just that: We will be home. 

When it comes to education, being at home is harder than being at school. We are out of the environment that is meant for learning and away from a lot of resources to help us succeed. In the end, we aren’t truly getting a break until mid-December.

Students have been working nonstop since August. We check one task off of our to-do list, and then, there’s two more waiting in its place. Every single student I have talked to has said this semester has been the hardest and most stressful one of their college careers. I never understood what “burnout” really meant until this semester. 

Now, I am no stranger to stress and mental illness. Last semester, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety through the Ball State Health Center. I know what it feels like to be drained all the time with no energy or motivation to complete basic tasks. I’m lucky enough to have found a treatment plan that works for me, so that feeling lessened over time. However, I’m seeing it all around me now.

On Oct. 29, Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns sent out a video describing a new plan for next semester. He and Student Government Association president Connor Sanburn announced that next semester, we will be getting three “study days.” According to the spring semester calendar, these days will be held Feb. 21, Mar. 23 and April 14. During these days, there will be no new material taught, assignments due or tests taken. Students don’t have to attend class, but the spring semester calendar says these days should not be considered “university holidays” and that any other activities — internships, mentoring, clinical labs, etc. — will still be held. 

This plan is a great start, but I am hesitant to say this will solve the problem entirely.  I think having consecutive days off would be better for students. In the same breath, I think professors should understand that this is supposed to be a break for us and assign less work that week than they normally would. If the concern is for students to not go home, then make the days we have off Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  

Most students already spend their days with no in-person classes — just Zoom calls, video lectures and virtual assignments. The due dates breathe down our necks as we sit behind our screens, armed with nothing but blue light, coffee and a to-do list. While these “study days” seem like they will be helpful, it’s more likely that they will feel just like any other day of the week. All we can really do is make the most out of what we are given and pray 2021 is kinder to us.

Contact Emily Hunter with comments at ekhunter@bsu.edu.


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