When you take a walk along the quad at Oxford’s campus, you’re likely to see students buzzing around, desperately trying to get to their next class on time. Maybe there’s a booth set up on the way, a club having an event or giving out mini powdered donuts to hungry passersby. But there’s something missing from this picture – no students are relaxing on the quad. There’s nobody just chilling out, having a picnic or playing a guitar. Academic life is clearly going on, but life outside of that, regular life, just stops.
Apparently, this used to not be the case. I’ve heard some of my professors reminiscing over just the previous school year, when students could be seen enjoying themselves around campus between classes. Relaxing together. Laughing together. Making music together. Not everyone had their nose buried into a textbook all hours of the day.
The difference between then and now? Last year, a typical class was worth four credit hours, so the average students were only taking four classes for 16 hours total. This year, a typical class is worth three hours, meaning that students are taking five. And while this sounds like it should be lightening the workload, professors are still in the adjustment process. Most are still assigning the same level of work they were when their class was worth an additional hours’ work – meaning that most Oxford students have signed up for 15 credit hours but are essentially taking 20.
If it gives any idea as to how intense the discrepancy is, 20 hours is the minimum number of hours a student needs to be taking to qualify as overloading, which a student would typically need advisor approval to do. Instead, this is happening across campus casually – and it shows. I haven’t talked to a single student in the past several months who says that they get eight hours of sleep each night (or even most nights). Several don’t eat regular meals, and what meals they do eat they eat quickly or while studying. There isn’t a minute to stop and enjoy life on campus. It takes a toll on both physical and mental health.
Professors need to understand that their students this year are under more pressure than years previous. The average student is taking five classes for the first time in Oxford’s history. That means that time needs to be able to be divided between more classes. Work from each class have to get slightly less attention to make space for that fifth class – which means that either quality is going to suffer, or a class’s workload is going to have to be abandoned for the sake of performance in other areas. Let our campus breathe, and treat 15 hours like 15. Then maybe we’ll finally be able to hear music on the quad again.