Midterm season has hit Emory students like a freight train. The stringent deadlines and long-term workload spike has produced burnout among Emory students, reflecting a flawed and inflexible set of policies and an education system that glorifies failure.
The return to normalcy with loosening COVID-19 restrictions has been a double-edged sword. For one, nearly 70% of classes are now in-person, student organizations are meeting regularly and the bustling number of people is revitalizing campus. On the other hand, students have been confronted with the gross reality that taking 18 to 21 credits on Zoom is drastically different from taking those same credits in person. Though some may have found it feasible during pre-pandemic times, trying to find a work-life balance is nearly impossible, and we should never have been working at that level in the first place.
Midterms, online or not, have always been one of the most stressful periods for college students. Despite being dubbed a short, seemingly seasonal occurrence, the real midterm season can last much longer. Since each class has its own schedule, some students may have multiple midterm exams spread across the semester, while others may be taking exams and writing papers all due on the same day. In the end, midterms are not a week-long endeavor, but at their worst, a months-long scramble that negatively impacts students’ mental health and grades.
Not only does studying for midterms start to take up every chunk of extra time that college students have, but some exam times are abnormal and unconducive to student athletes. For QTM 100 students, a foundational course for most social and natural science majors, the lab quizzes are only open from 5:30-10 p.m., when athletes are often at sports practices or when other extracurricular events are occurring. As a result, people have to choose one activity over the other and miss out on exciting events that are happening around campus. Not allowing this leeway prevents students from being able to experience college beyond academia.
The fear of failure at a pre-professional intensive school like Emory has been ingrained into our psyche. Students overload on credits and extracurriculars in hopes of padding their resumes. Asking for extensions is also largely stigmatized, causing people to pull all-nighters and forgo their mental, physical and emotional health in lieu of a higher grade point average. Instead of enabling students to obsessively do everything and expect perfection, Emory should allow students to find a work-life balance by having professors increase flexibility in deadlines.
Developing a work-life balance is not easy, but professors must start coming up with creative solutions to prevent stress-induced burnouts, with the bare minimum being flexible deadlines. Some already have. For instance, in POLS 494 (Civilians in Conflict), Professor Jessica Sun offers students 48 extension hours to spend on any assignments throughout the entire semester. Other professors, like Professor of Political Science Jennifer Gandhi have also included a longer window of time to complete a certain assessment or quiz to allow students to manage their time according to their schedule.
But we should not stop there. Since professors must also contend with mountains of work to grade, giving students windows from which they can choose their own deadlines would ease the burden on both groups. Greater flexibility for students doesn’t have to mean decreased predictability for educators. Academia is a stressful environment for everyone, but as long as our solutions are tailored to the classes and people who use them — extensions don’t make much sense for an exam-based organic chemistry section — it doesn’t have to be.
As a community, Emory needs to acknowledge the difficulties in the learning curve during this transition period. If students feel unable to ask for extensions or scale back their commitments to a reasonable level, Emory’s academic culture is failing us. We came here to learn, not to suffer for four years.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Sara Khan, Martin Li, Sophia Ling, Demetrios Mammas, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas and Leah Woldai.