We are all exhausted.
We are done with grit.
A recent survey conducted by Purdue Student Government received results that should surprise no one. Students are feeling burned out, tired, overworked and in many cases, alone.
A similar survey, conducted by the University Senate before classes even started in August, reported similar results among faculty and graduate students. Preparing for a semester still mired in uncertainty left instructors no time to recharge during the already bleak summer.
Senate chair Deb Nichols reported at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting that 61% of people on campus felt they weren’t engaging in enough high-quality interactions with others, per the August survey. Just 44% of faculty agreed with the phrase, “I feel equipped to manage both personal and work life demands right now.”
A quick glance at posts on the Purdue subreddit provides a franker look into how people on campus have felt over the past few weeks:
“I’m tired of school: rant.”
“Rant: I am at my wit’s end.”
“Best place to get a hug?”
“How can I stop crying?”
Or, more simply: “Damn.”
With only six weeks down, an unfathomably momentous presidential election four weeks away, midterm season upon us and no end to the pandemic in sight, students and faculty are completely justified in feeling overwhelmed.
Underclassmen report spending more time shut up in dorm rooms. Virtual lectures are piling up, as students try to prepare for midterms which use proctoring softwares that are discomfiting to many. Synchronous lectures strain instructors trying to engage muted and faceless pupils.
There’s no magic solution that would solve everyone’s concerns. But surely, there are some ways Purdue could help.
During PSG’s latest senate meeting, students discussed some options that would help lessen the toll of the semester on students’ mental health. Pass/Fail grade modes, “reading days” for the fall semester, a day off for Election Day — all viable, feasible choices.
When asked about the possibility of having days off this fall, Purdue President Mitch Daniels said he hadn’t heard about the proposal to cancel courses on Election Day, and that we’d all probably be sticking to the calendar faculty have already set.
But he also acknowledged the anxiety many have reported since the beginning of the school year.
“We know people are stressed,” Daniels said after Friday’s board meeting. “We know students want more interaction, we’re trying hard. … We believe we have more face-to-face interaction than any of our peers. And it’s not enough.
“But I’m just — I bring it up because we’re very sensitive to information like this, in the student-government poll, and we’re trying to do all we can, as long as it’s consistent with safety.”
Part of being sensitive to the fact that students and staff feel spent is building time into the school calendar to allow everyone time to rest and recharge, despite the grit that we’re all supposed to have built up by now.
Grit won’t make us feel better after failing midterms of professors we’ve never met in-person.
Grit won’t get us through weeks of sitting in our dorm rooms and apartments while takeout containers stack up in our trash bins.
Grit won’t get us through COVID-19 scares, positive tests and dying family members.
But it’s the University’s turn for grit now, as it should do everything in its power to keep its people healthy.
Give everyone a day off. Give students a Pass/Not Pass option for classes. Give graduate students and employees a livable salary and assurance that their jobs won’t be taken from them if things go even further awry. Give everyone the confidence that the University is doing all it can to help everyone through this.
Keeping Boilermakers safe cannot end at posters, Protect Purdue merchandise or Plexiglas. Safety means job security for staff who don’t feel comfortable coming to work and relaxed attendance policies for students who feel pressured to attend lectures. It entails better testing capabilities, like the daily requirements being considered for Big Ten athletes.
The Protect Purdue plan should be about more than hand sanitizer and online classes. The plan needs to include safeguards for the mental well-being of everyone on campus — because if that isn’t protected, then what’s the point of classes anyway?