Whether it’s your first year at Queen’s or your last, by now we’ve all likely heard the familiar sound of a student bragging about the hours they spent in the library cramming for an exam or desperately scrawling out a paper that should’ve been done and edited days before.
As students, we often wear these hours in the library like a badge of honor.
Spent 24 hours straight at Stauffer? Ordered a pizza to the front lobby at 4 a.m? First in line to Douglas when they opened the doors? These have become both accomplishments and commonplace for students.
Rather than continue this cycle, the question we must ask is whether these things are a normal part of the university experience or whether they’re indicative of an unknown expectation that the school sets for students that goes beyond what should be assumed.
As exam season rolls around each year, so, too, does the time when Stauffer Library extends its active hours and remains open and accessible to students 24 hours a day. On the surface, this seems like a rather mundane event.
These extended hours may be understood to be a privilege for students, allowing for maximum study time should we choose to use it.
While this may be true, it also creates an unrealistic and often very unhealthy expectation for students; promoting bad study habits, neglecting self-care and adding to the overall feeling of stress around the final weeks of each semester.
Simply walking through the doors of Stauffer, students can often feel the stress of their peers, many of whom they don’t even know.
As well, it leads to chaos surrounding access to library seating and resources, leaving some students without a place to study while others cling to prime spots for hours, even days, on end.
The message that Queen’s sends to students by extending library hours is clear, although unintentional. By extending hours, they’re making it possible and plausible for students to be spending absurd amounts of hours on end in the library, often without leaving and taking breaks.
During exams, students can be found spending nights sleeping in Stauffer and ordering food to the doors. It’s easy to disregard this as a normal tenet of student life but, in reality, it’s quite destructive to both student’s wellbeing as well as their ability to actually absorb and understand information.
The University presents this increase in hours as a gift to students that they’re welcome to accept or decline as they wish. While this freedom exists, when deadlines and dates are looming and tensions are high, there’s a guilt that comes along with leaving or, if we regard library time as the social competition it has become, quitting.
‘Survival of the fittest’ shouldn’t apply to the library.
It would be a challenge to argue that the idea of living in the library for 24 hours straight without going home to sleep, shower or eat is a healthy way of studying for exams. We need that break, that fresh air, that change of scenery to stimulate our brains and allow for more productive studying.
Even if it feels too distracting to take breaks by browsing the web or watching television, going on short walks or grocery shopping between study sessions can be a great way to remain productive, while also temporarily relieving the stress of exam preparations.
There’s something to be said for getting a fresh start, clean from the stresses and pressures of the previous day. If students were forced to leave — even for a few hours — they would be able to hit the proverbial reset button on their brains and, hopefully, would return to the library with a new motivation and the drive to study.
One way to take the stress of students would be to close Stauffer late at night.
Currently, seat-saving at the library is one of the most aggravating and frustrating problems that students face. By forcing students to go home, it would reduce the mounds of books and other seat-saving mechanisms that are scattered throughout the library each day. Everyone would start anew and have the same access to library seating as the people who had been there the day before, if only for the morning.
By closing the library for just two or three hours a night, forcing students out, the University could send a strong message. That message would remind students to always take care of themselves first, even at the expense of their assignments. It would prove to students that the University cares about their mental and physical wellbeing and values it above their academic standing.
Sometimes, in the middle of a hectic exam period, we all need this message to be received loud and clear to break through the tension and stress that cloud our minds.
Sydney Wilson is a third-year film and English student and next year’s Opinions Editor at The Journal.
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