Remote classes on snow days place more stress on work-life balance

Snow days provide relief for overworked students: Bring them back

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Julia Oktay, Assistant Op/Ed Editor

The first few significant snowstorms are behind us, and the University of Massachusetts has yet to cancel classes. Although the University issued a campus closure for the most recent one last Saturday, this did not mean weekend classes were cancelled.

According to the University’s severe weather closing plan, in the event of a snow closure, “Scheduled face-to-face classes will not take place on the physical campus.” The plan continues, “at faculty discretion, face-to-face classes may be transitioned that day to a remote class or cancelled. Faculty should communicate directly with their students on what activity, if any, will take place.”

For many, snow days serve a greater purpose than just reducing the need to travel. They also act as mental health days for stressed-out college students, especially when they fall in the middle of the semester. Having an unplanned day off to catch up on classwork can make a huge difference in stress level.

Work-life balance in college is almost nonexistent. We go to class for a specified amount of time each day, and then work on our homework all evening until it’s finished. Unlike the workday, the school day has no fixed end time. Students don’t have the luxury of clocking out at 5 p.m. and compartmentalizing the stress.

For us, the to-do list is never-ending. Professors are constantly sending out emails, the University sends out automated emails with required action items at all hours of the day and night and due dates are at cruel times such as midnights on Sunday — assignments which, of course, aren’t distributed until Friday afternoon. Professors have no guidelines for how much work to assign, so students can spend upward of 40 hours per week doing homework and answering emails.

An additional threat to students’ work-life balance is that there is no such thing as PTO. I can’t take a day off for a funeral, an emergency health concern, a mental health day, or — god forbid — a weekend trip. While it’s true that we have summer and winter breaks, it’s important to be able to take time off as needed. Going to school full-time for four months straight isn’t sustainable, even if it’s followed by a three-month break.

Once in a while, I have to miss a class or two when I’m not feeling well. Some of my classwork is so dense and challenging that missing one class can set me back for days or weeks. One class may correspond to one concept, which translates to missing a few points on the exam later that semester. If I take any amount of time off, more often than not there is no way to make it up. If I miss a deadline or an important exam, my professor may or may not be understanding.

And on top of that, we’re sold this lie that we can “do it all.” We are encouraged to take a heavy course load, get involved in extracurriculars such as clubs and Greek life, have an active social life and work part-time to help pay bills. Don’t forget, of course, the condescending emails from the University that promote mental health but do anything but offer time off.

According to Forbes, prolonged stress can lead to burnout, which causes long-term health problems and, not to mention, unhappy community members.

Pre-pandemic, snow days were the only days I had no obligations. I couldn’t go to school or work; all social activities were cancelled and these days served as a much-needed mental break. Snow days can help reduce the impact of the nonstop nature of college life. Transitioning to remote learning may help professors get through coursework faster, but at what cost?

Julia Oktay can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @juliadoktay.