The Dangers of an Overworked Student Body

Grace Duggan

Earlier in the semester I attended the town hall meeting regarding homophobia at Middlebury. A number of students, professors, and faculty members showed up to the McCullough Social Space, but quite a few chairs were empty, and the majority of individuals who showed up were not students. One professor asked the audience, “Where are all the students?” Rather than ask the students where their peers were, the professor at the town hall meeting should have asked her peers, “Are we partly to blame?”

Middlebury prides itself on having a student body comprised of well-rounded individuals. But in an environment full of over-achievers, the vast majority of the student body does not have much in the way of free time. Students juggle classes, homework, jobs, sports, music, clubs, plays and a slew of other activities. When you factor in all of the lectures, screenings, and talks open to the student body each week, it is no wonder that few students showed up to the meeting. There were several other events scheduled at the same time as this town hall meeting, including one with a similar subject matter. Also, the meeting was held at 4:30, when a significant portion of the student body was heading off to team practices. We are all overbooked, and we live in an environment that encourages this kind of scheduling.

Merilee Jones, the former dean of admissions at M.I.T., was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying that our generation is “the most anxious, sleep-deprived, steeped-in-stress, judged, tested, poorly nourished generation.” Students rush from one commitment to the next, study late into the night, try to let off steam on weekends, and generally burn the candle at both ends. If the college likes a student body full of well-rounded individuals, then why does it continue to endorse a notoriously heavy workload, often to the detriment of the health of the student body?
More than once I have been told that it is not the job of the professor to make the student’s life easier. At the same time, it is not the job of the professor to encourage an environment overflowing with stress. We cannot deal with issues affecting our community if we do not have time to be a community in the first place.

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