It’s been three and a half years, and I’m exhausted.
Three and a half years of sleep deprivation, of endless hard work and frustration, of impossible exams that send half the class into desperate tears of fatigue and humiliation. Three and a half years of studying instead of partying, sleeping, spending time with friends, exploring Philadelphia, going to the gym, dancing, participating in extracurricular activities or having any sort of meaningful college experience.
I’m 21 years old, and I’m burnt out. Ready to retire. And I’m not alone.
All Penn students possess an awareness of academic burnout — we all know someone who took a leave of absence, or can name a few friends we haven’t seen in months (unless they’re rushing down Locust to Van Pelt). Most of us engage in the obligatory, near-constant workload-pissing contests — “I have three papers and a midterm this week.” “Oh really? I have five papers, two presentations and I have to build a robot that washes dishes.” — without thinking. We attend an Ivy League institution of higher education; why wouldn’t we push ourselves? And further, we rationalize, didn’t we sign up for this?
Before I answer that, a current events update. Yesterday, the family of John Edwards, a former Harvard University undergraduate, filed suit against his alma mater and two clinicians at the school’s University Health Services. Edwards committed suicide in 2007 as a sophomore. According to the lawsuit, he was taking a combination of Prozac and Wellbutrin (antidepressants), the stimulant Adderall and Accutane, an anti-acne drug known to induce suicidal thoughts in some patients. Why such a broad chemical melange?
Edwards was “frustrated because he could not study for as long a period as his friends,” the lawsuit alleges. A nurse practitioner at UHS prescribed Adderall for his newly-diagnosed attention-deficit disorder, then later prescribed the two antidepressants to combat anxiety and depression. Several months later, Edwards took his own life.
No student should die because he wants to study more. Whether the stress itself motivated his decision, or the drugs played a part, the fact that a lack of superhuman ability possibly led to a suicide is appalling.
So to answer the question I posed earlier, we signed up for college — but not for the soul-crushing workload that many students experience, and that most consider to be a solitary endeavor. While I absolutely appreciate having access to CAPS and all of its resources, I sometimes wonder at the number of peers I suggest make an appointment. The entire student body should not need therapy. Penn needs to make some changes to allow students to take breaks and preserve their sanity.
A few suggestions: Inform professors that most students take four to six classes, not just one. Many professors put forth that only their courses matter; with multiple classes claiming priority each semester, a marathon begins as students attempt to balance the demands of one with the others. Encourage the science departments to adopt the Wharton curve — while a B average can make it difficult to obtain an A, the current B-/C+ curve results in an overwork epidemic. Come on, Penn — with our letters of acceptance, you validated that each of us has some measure of intelligence. Now, as we attempt to carry out the coursework that will eventually, hopefully, result in gainful employment, we need the chance to learn the information without sacrificing every other aspect of our lives. College is supposed to be fun.
Regardless of Penn’s actions, I’ve had enough. Take it from a senior — soon enough, your friends will scatter and you’ll be left with memories of the times you could have had. Life is for living, and I’m going out tonight.
So consider this column a mandate: Henceforth, the students of the University of Pennsylvania shall fulfill the requirements of our reputation: we’ll play as hard as we work.
Lindsey Stull is a College senior from Oklahoma City, Okla. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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