ANTIGONISH (CUP) — On Oct. 15, Maclean’s On Campus published an article titled Why universities should quit adding more breaks, making a case about why Canadian universities should not add a fall study break period to their academic calendars. The author outlined that a further reduction of class time would hinder students’ abilities to cope with the time required of jobs in the “real world,” and that the benefits of a fall break would only be “temporary.”
Really? How wrong can he be? First of all, the article greatly minimizes the effort that many students put forth into their education. The author states that, in university, “9-5 work habits start to fade” and that a typical second year student will have classes spread over three days. I would argue that many students have work habits that in fact surpass the 9-5 working hours, while students in many programs have classes four and five days a week.
To put an emphasis on just the number of hours a student spends in the classroom would be a wildly inaccurate observation as to the true amount of work hours someone puts into their education. In the faculty of engineering, for example, classes on many days start at 8:15 a.m. and go through the day until 5 p.m. Then come numerous hours of revision, assignments, group work, term papers and – to top it all off – midterms twice a term and a final exam. Ask many students what their average bed time is during the week, and you’ll find it’s midnight or later as they try to keep up with the never ending work load.
There is a reason why there has been an increase in the popularity of “study drugs” like Adderall and Vyvanse nationwide, and why empty coffee cups and energy drink cans fill the trash around campus. The author of the article also notes that many students would name procrastination as their biggest problem with their studies, which leads us to feel “worthless,” adding to our mental health problems. This observation is absurd and backwards. When someone is struggling with depression or other mental illnesses due to a variety of social factors, it is then that thoughts of worthlessness or feeling pathetic will creep in. This contributes to the “why bother attitude” of procrastination in some people; it is not the other way around.
Other students who simply procrastinate due to laziness or partying too hard are the students you often see flunk out or drop out. But the ones that are here to work hard for their future careers will put in as many hours as they can, and procrastination generally becomes a problem for them only when the workload gets overwhelming. Rising tuition costs across the country have led to an increase in students working one or more part time jobs during the school year just to get by. This increases stress and takes away from time we could be concentrated on our studies. If balancing all the commitments of a part time job and being a full time student doesn’t prepare you for work in the “real world,” I don’t know what will. The concept of the “real world” being beyond university is a fallacy. We’re already living in it. Students know what to expect beyond university thanks to the education we receive. We will not be “in for a shock”, as the author puts it.
The amount of stress many students are under can lead to a deteriorating social life, whether it is with family or friends. More time cooped up in the library and less time with the positive people in your life can undoubtedly contribute to depression. Make no mistake, this is a crisis that needs to be addressed at every university in this country. Slowly, we are making improvements; it is already far too late for many.
This September report by CTV’s W5 is just one of the numerous publications outlining the increasing suicide rates among university students. So how can anyone say that the a fall study break that would positively affect mental health is not worth it? How can a one extra week of classes be given more value then the quality of life of a human being, or the loss of someone’s son or daughter? Yes, the benefits of the break may be temporary, lifting students spirits for only a few days, but often that is all they need — a little reminder to look after yourself, to refresh, relax, and come back ready to learn again. A fall break is temporary, but suicide is permanent. It is time that university administration, and apparently the media, gain some insight on this growing crisis and how desperately many students need this.
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