Editorial: Give us a break

Photo+credit%3A+McKenna+Greenleaf+Faulk

Photo credit: McKenna Greenleaf Faulk

Daniel Schwalm

When University President Tania Tetlow’s announcement about the spring semester’s academic calendar was sent out to students last week, it was met with universal dismay. The spring break we all expected was done away with, replaced by a “delayed start holiday,” a single Wednesday and a separate Thursday when classes are canceled. Mardi Gras break is gone as well. Even class on Lundi Gras is “to be determined.” Basically, the plan is to go all semester without a real break.

We, as students, can’t do that.

Canceling classes on a single random weekday doesn’t count as giving us a break. We’re just going to end up working all day. It won’t make a difference when it comes to our mental health. A break needs to be an extended period of several days when we can actually disengage from schoolwork and rest. We know other schools, notably Tulane, have made the same decision as Loyola, but that doesn’t make it OK. Other administrations may have made the same bad decision, but that doesn’t mean that Loyola doesn’t have to justify it.

Virtually everyone is in agreement that this semester has been the worst. We are all burnt out—and not just the students. The faculty and staff deserve a break too. Everyone on campus has been working harder than ever, from those who teach the classes to those who clean the classrooms.

Across the board, students are making it clear: we are not OK.

Many of us are making the worst grades of our lives. The average student’s mental health has never been worse. A whopping 89% of college students across the country are suffering from stress or anxiety. A study conducted by American Campus Communities found that 85% of college students say they have experienced a significant increase in stress this year.

A CDC report earlier this year found that young adults are experiencing disproportionately higher levels of mental health problems, substance abuse and suicidal ideation. Many students are considering taking next semester off, or even dropping out—especially freshmen, who are understandably overwhelmed with the experience of starting college in the middle of a pandemic.

Students are crying out for help, but all we get in response from the school are symbolic gestures and empty words about our resiliency.

We are sick and tired of hearing how strong we are, how inspiring we are, how amazing it is that we have come together as a community to get through this. We don’t want empty platitudes. We want something to change.

Online and hybrid classes are much more work than our old in-person classes. We keep hearing that the workload is increasing to make sure we “get our money’s worth.” But how is drowning us in busywork doing that? Stop making students’ lives harder than they have to be.

If Loyola cares about students’ mental and emotional health, something needs to change. If Loyola cares about its retention rates, something needs to change. By the middle of next semester, we will have been functioning in survival mode for a full year. We’re going to need a week to rest.

The Loyola administration keeps telling us that they have faith in us. But it’s become abundantly clear that they only trust us when it’s convenient. Regardless of whether or not the school trusts us, we’ve proven that we deserve to be trusted. We’ve kept COVID-19 cases low on campus all semester—less than 100 cumulative cases so far. That’s not because of the administration. That’s not because of lawn signs and stickers on the ground. It’s because of the students, faculty and staff each making individual decisions to keep each other safe.

We know Loyola is worried that if we had a normal break, students would use it to travel and party and then bring COVID back to campus with them. That’s not what would happen. We promise. Besides, people have been going to and from New Orleans all semester. Whether they’ve evacuated due to a hurricane or they just needed to be at home, people have already been traveling. People who want to party will party. People who want to keep each other safe will help keep each other safe. Whether or not we have spring or Mardi Gras break isn’t going to change that.

We’ve already shown that we’re responsible enough to navigate college life during a pandemic. We’re not going to be stereotypical spring breakers partying at the beach. We would use a break to rest, to catch up on sleep, to catch up on homework, to catch our breath.

Loyola, it’s not too late to show us that you trust us.

It’s not too late to change the calendar to give us a real break. We understand if you don’t want to give us too much time off at Mardi Gras, we’re fine with the break coming at a different time. But we need to have one and it needs to be a whole week. We’re all at our breaking point. We’re lonely. We’re depressed. We pay rent to basically live in the cone of uncertainty, wondering if it will be a hurricane or the pandemic that will take us out first. We’re afraid for our futures and for our tomorrows. We don’t feel taken care of by the school that we love.

We just need a fucking break.

 

This editorial represents the majority opinion of The Maroon’s editorial board and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Loyola University. The Maroon does not represent the opinion of administration, staff and/or faculty members of Loyola.