Photo credits: Marissa Grootes via Unsplash
If you walk around the quad between classes as the semester progresses, you’ll see hundreds of grumpy, burned-out, caffeine-addicted college students just trying to make it to graduation. Constantly faltering on the edge of a breakdown, students at West Chester University need a little extra help balancing the stresses of everyday life, whether or not they feel comfortable admitting it.
WCU students need two extra, excused, “no questions asked” absences per class per semester to use in the event of a mental health crisis. The standard at WCU is to offer three unexcused absences before your grade is severely impacted, but there are so many unpredictable factors in life that make this limit inadequate. No one plans to be so stressed out that they physically shut down, and if or when it does happen, they shouldn’t have to worry about their grades on top of getting their head straight.
To be considered a full-time student at West Chester, you have to be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credits, which is equivalent to four courses. Taking four courses means a minimum of 12 hours in class a week, plus roughly three hours of homework per class — and this doesn’t include students who opt to take 14 or 16 credits. Some of us may have trouble admitting when we can’t handle the stresses of life. Balancing so many hours of school on top of the regular stresses of life and potentially working to afford to live and pay tuition can feel nearly impossible at times. According to a study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 64% of students drop out of college due to their mental health issues. That’s nearly two-thirds of the population of college students. College students have so much on their plate to deal with on top of the already growing pressure from society to succeed and earn a degree that it’s no wonder they crack.
Allowing “no questions asked” mental health days may cause students looking for extra time off to abuse the system, but it could be incredibly beneficial for those who are fearful of speaking up and asking for help. This is why I’m proposing that the absences be granted and tracked through a form on myWCU that offers the student access to immediate mental health services and relaxation techniques. As students, we get so wound up and stressed out trying to keep up with everything, so something like this could completely change the conversation about mental health on campus and among college age kids in general.
The mental health crisis is and has been prominent among students, but has especially grown since coming back to school after the pandemic. According to a study done by the Mary Christie Institute, 87.1% of professors think that their students’ mental health worsened during the pandemic. It is horrifying that students are so stressed out that even professors can see it. The world has drastically changed over the past few years, and it is now more important than ever to put a spotlight on mental illness and personal well being.
I believe that students would greatly benefit from WCU offering, at the very least, one “no questions asked” absence to every student in addition to what we already have, as a stress-free opportunity to deal with their mental health. It’s what we need to make it through each of those 15 grueling weeks.
Ali Castronuovo is a fifth year Media and Culture major. AC887129@wcupa.edu