Emily Seppelt – Opinion Columnist
As we are in the midst of our third COVID semester, the mid-semester onslaught has arrived right along with the rainy spring weather. Many of us may be having flashbacks to last March when we were all sent home and “enjoyed” a two-week spring break.
Last March, spring break was extended for many reasons, including giving time to professors to move their classes online as well as to address the crisis that the world was entering at the time. For the rest of the semester, most classes lowered their expectations greatly, making their main goal for the students to simply learn something and get through the semester. The thing is, we are still in this crisis.
While I can recognize that we have certainly adapted to this hellscape that we find ourselves in, and even found ways to thrive as a campus, that does not mean that the stressors of a global pandemic simply fade away over time. In fact, I would argue that since March, things have gotten even more stressful and shocking.
Of course, classes need to move forward as they otherwise would. We all came to Gustavus to get a degree from a fantastic small liberal arts college, and we are going to get it. But what doesn’t make any sense to me is that students are expected to give their very best in circumstances that are already difficult, without any of the breaks they would otherwise receive if COVID-19 had not happened.
Things are looking up. More and more people are getting their vaccine, and hopefully, most of us have adapted to this new normal by now. But professors and the administration need to recognize that by this point in the semester, with little to no break, students are floundering.
Listen, when college students bemoan the fact that we have lost our spring break, or any real break in yet another semester, we aren’t being lazy or wishing to slack off. While we may fantasize about trips down South or a week of vacation, that is not why we are complaining. To be honest, most college students are simply wishing more than anything that they could have even just a moment to breathe.
“I hope that after two semesters that will have almost destroyed many students, Gustavus takes students’ needs into account as COVID-19 goes on and provides us with real breaks each semester.”
While our mid-semester break was a small reprieve, in reality, it wasn’t a break at all. I don’t know one person who didn’t have at least one professor treat the two extra days as an opportunity to squeeze in more work and content. Personally, I chose to treat the break like a real break and take a moment to breathe. But the entire time, I could never really relax knowing how much work I should have been doing. And by making that choice, I was set behind and overwhelmed with work. This only goes to prove that the break was never meant to be a break, simply a time to do more work.
Now some people may say that this is just how college life is. Stressful, overwhelming, busy, sleep-depriving. And before COVID, I may have agreed with them. While that may just be “how it is,” I believe that it shouldn’t be. Not I am not saying that college students shouldn’t have to work hard or push themselves. It is natural to be stressed about the things you care about and want to do well.
But this mindset doesn’t properly prepare students for life after college, and with the weight of COVID on our shoulders, it only destroys our will to keep going and pushing to do everything we need to do. In the “real world”, we wouldn’t expect people to spend their entire days, 8 a.m.-11 p.m., to be in meetings and working. And spending almost their entire weekend working too. Without a break. For almost four months.
Without a real break, students get so burnt out and overwhelmed, that at a certain point, they are just trying to survive. This does not produce their best work, or any goes to make the whole class suffer. With a real break, students would have a better chance of staying engaged with the course and staying on track to get work done.
I hope that after two semesters that will have almost destroyed many students, Gustavus takes students’ needs into account as COVID-19 goes on and provides us with real breaks each semester.