A Cramped Boat

| Niels ter Meer

With campus and one’s inbox quieting down, with people leaving for perhaps a nice cruise, it’s important to dwell on those that remain on this cramped academic boat, per student columnist Niels ter Meer.


You’ve probably noticed, given the summer-period newsletter email from the board, the sweaty (not sweater) weather, or the rumble of business on campus or in your inbox dying down, the summer vacation has started! Time to take some time off to rejuvenate, indulge in hobbies that spark joy, spend time with one’s loved ones, and maybe most importantly to practice self-care. Who knows, maybe you’ll even go on a cruise on a spacious boat?!

But some are still stuck on our cramped academic boat for (at least) three more weeks of (hectic) work. On the year circle, weeks 28 through 30 are earmarked for self-study and resits. For yours truly, this means drafting all those reports that still need submitting, sometimes with childishly harsh deadlines. With everyone seeming to trip over each other down the gangway to leave the boat behind for eight weeks, I think it’s important to dwell on that some, or maybe most, don’t have that luxury. So let’s not applaud too early.

For the staff’s perspective on this period, I can mostly refer to well-being reports. For them, the summer is not necessarily rejuvenating or restful; more akin back-to-back marathon, far-jump, and sprint events — more interesting metaphors in this piece. Whatever they can’t do because of teaching obligations goes here, into the ‘vacation’.

With that as backdrop, what about the students? For us, the teaching period is far from over, so with all our might and drops of remaining energy we try to work on all the things we still have to do. Given that we’re students we’ll inevitably have questions. Off goes that email with the questions, onto the staff’s piles. They take the time to respond, or take their time to respond; in the latter’s case forcing the students’ work into the vacation.

What also happens is that the student makes some mistakes in their planning. Given that usually the focus is (or at least should be) on the quality of the work, not whether you can do it under duress, why not extend the deadline? Yet some staff insist on doing it by the book, even though there is no longer a realistic way of doing it by the book. More emailing, more bureaucracy, more stress — both for the student and the teacher.

Given these examples, I can’t help but notice that we seem to collectively make each other walk the plank. It’s natural that in the student/staff relation we create work for one another, but sometimes that eats into the time we all need to relax, in order to do it all over again the next day, week, or year. The words ‘structurally overburdened’ spring to mind.

But we cannot tolerate running at full tilt the entire year. Especially this time of year, students and staff need to give each other some space. Give people some time and space to respond, or do their work, but don’t forget that the person on the other side might be just as swamped or tired as you. We’re cruising through the academic seas on this cramped boat together after all.

I, for one, am going to take that space. A bit of writing one day, a bit of indulging in hobbies and spending time with loved ones another, as should everyone who’s still working. Take that vacation. See you back on the boat in eight weeks.

Stay tuned

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