An Open Letter to McGill

Images courtesy of Creative Commons; graphic by Sarah Farb

Dear McGill,

I think it’s time that you and I have a heart-to-heart regarding what feels like a never-ending midterm season. By definition, midterms are supposed to take place precisely at the halfway point of the semester. It does not take long for first-year students to realize that this is not the reality. Indeed, midterm season at McGill refers to an examination period that runs between mid-October and December — a time characterized by stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and more readings than one can possibly imagine. It is only when December comes along and snow has covered the entirety of campus that the word “midterms” is replaced by the more appropriate “finals”.

McGill, I hate to say this, but it’s not me; it’s you. The fact that I spend more time at the library than I do in the comfort of my own home is comical. Indeed, not a single day goes by that doesn’t involve hours spent at the McLennan-Redpath Library Complex. It has gotten to a point where I now recognize and have become acquainted with other students who always study in the same area as me. While I do owe a big thank-you to Redpath and its piano, and to Premiere Moisson for lifting me up in times of need, the mental anguish triggered by this interminable exam period is no laughing matter.

The fact that I spend more time at the library than I do in the comfort of my own home is comical.

The lack of motivation on campus is palpable. Recently, one of my professors even stopped mid-lecture to ask us if we were alright–if we were surviving. It’s not that we aren’t surviving, it’s that we are simply exhausted. Other professors have complained about the lack of attendance throughout November. It is important to understand that students are not skipping class because they want to; they are most likely cooped up in the library trying to juggle term papers and in-class tests. I am probably not the only person who has forgotten what it was like to have a real social life, one that is not limited to group study sessions at the library and therapeutic late-night phone conversations.

Although a sense of solidarity and community is built among students during this difficult period, I maintain that a healthier student body better than one united through common struggle.

I can think of two possible solutions to this problem:

Imagine if professors within a given faculty got together in the beginning of the semester and coordinated assignments. In this parallel universe, students would never be faced with the struggle of having to write three research papers — that are all worth 40% of the course — at once. A girl can only dream, though; there are simply too many courses and too many students for such a schedule to be possible.

This brings us to option two: a mini reading break. I believe that a couple of days off during the fall semester would make all the difference in the world. For the overachievers, it would be an opportunity to catch up on all the readings that weren’t done beforehand and to potentially get ahead on other assignments. For others, it would be a chance to recharge their mental batteries and to simply relax without worrying about missing a lecture or an upcoming deadline. It would also give teachers and students alike the opportunity to prioritise something other than school and to regain the motivation that gets lost in the sea of work.

Although a sense of solidarity and community is built among students during this difficult period, I maintain that a healthier student body better than one united through common struggle.

Thank you for listening, McGill; I’ll probably be in the library if you want to chat.

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