These last few months have been among the toughest for me at Brandeis. The select few who follow my articles religiously may have noticed a sharp downward trend in my work. They may have noticed that I am no longer on the editorial board of this paper. I’ve dealt with health uncertainties and the existential crises that come with being a senior. My grades have threatened to slip. I’ve cut interpersonal relationships toxic to my well-being. These are all part of the reason I decided to cut back on my involvement at The Brandeis Hoot, despite all of the blood, sweat and tears I devoted to it over the last three years.
Don’t take this, though, as an attack on the editors and writers of The Hoot. A large part of my decision, here as a senior with very little wiggle room, was due to a needed re-prioritization. A significant part of that rearranging of priorities bit, though, is the fault of how pressurized Brandeis’ academic atmosphere has become.
This is not the first time I’ve written about my distaste for how Brandeis lays out and pressurizes its academic schedule. I discussed it in an article published in the April 1, 2016 edition of The Hoot titled “Current loose midterm scheduling unhelpful, stressful.” In that article I took a position against the policy of allowing midterms whenever instructors wished them to be and advocated a stricter regulation on how midterms should be administered, in a fashion similar to how finals are.
Unfortunately, this problem has not let up. I’ve heard of some students having midterms within their first few weeks of classes beginning and others having three midterms in one week. At Brandeis thrives a stress-laden culture in which students are unable to really unwind after a midterm or a paper because the uncertainty of another lingers. If students are to have a quality experience at Brandeis, this culture must be unwound and relaxed; otherwise, the unneeded stress will continue unabashed.
It is partially of my own doing, I admit, that I ended up in a situation in which I needed to cut back on an activity that I loved so much (and continue to cheer on from afar); I willingly signed up to write a senior essay in addition to four classes. I try to read syllabi to make sure that the classes I choose are manageable for me, but sometimes those syllabi can change spontaneously. I do try to take responsibility, further, for having made the choices that I made. The stress-filled culture, though, remains out of my control.
Amending this culture would not be difficult, though I will not float any proposals to any officials right here and right now. When all members of the Brandeis community are able to come together in solidarity with one another in recognition of the stresses that the maze of academic life hurls at students (as well as faculty), then the community as a whole can move forward in devising ways to make them easier to bear—together.
At the end of the day, it becomes all the more important to recognize and address the stressful culture of Brandeis in the face of the new General Education Requirements that are just around the corner, which students will deal with in the future for years to come. If we are able to address this culture now, in hopes that we create another one as academically rewarding but far less stressful, then and only then will Brandeis students be able to thrive in the way that all university principals want them to.
Otherwise, students matriculating here may never be academically successful without having to sacrifice the things they love, especially when confronted with other uncontrollable circumstances.