Editorial: Academic assignments over breaks are a detriment to students

As the end of the fall semester draws near, students who are eagerly anticipating time to engage with family, recharge and get their affairs in order may find themselves disappointed when that time is dramatically imposed upon by their professors.

Because often, to the chagrin of those hoping for time to clear both their minds and their folders, faculty take advantage of these short breaks to assign heavy workloads that couldn’t be completed during regular class time. Time-off turns into time-to-study, while time with friends and family, vital to social and mental well-being, falls to the wayside.

The notion that college students don’t deserve time to themselves, time to collect their bearings and breathe, is a grossly irresponsible sentiment that perpetuates bad behavior. By setting impossible standards, students who succeed begin glamorizing fatigue and losing sight of healthy habits that need to be created for lifelong well-being.

In the process, a destructive campus culture, wherein exhaustion is idealized and health is secondary to academic success, is cultivated.

Burnout, too, is a very real problem among those seeking higher education. When sparse days off are further ruined by excessive assignments, lofty expectations and impossibly long readings — disengagement and emotional collapse are very real possibilities.

The goal of an institution of higher learning should never be to see who they can “prune” from their ranks with unreasonable expectations. When, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 30 percent of college students have felt depressed in the past three months, and nearly 10 percent have seriously contemplated committing suicide in the past year, something very sinister is happening.

Substance abuse, body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders all thrive in this microcosm of criticism and expectation — and stress can have more than just an emotional impact. Physical health can also be impaired by high levels of stress hormones, not even accounting for the habits — smoking, overeating, alcohol abuse, under-eating, caffeine addiction — that develop as methods through which to cope.

It’s long past time to end these devastating practices. Students are not machines and cannot be treated as such. Though learning is a noble pursuit, it cannot be treated as the be-all end-all for those who have other things going on in their lives. By pushing students to their limit, a generation of students who value work over family and health are being created — and there is no more destructive attitude than that.

Time-off should be time off; no exceptions.

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