EDITORIAL: Finding a healthy way of studying

Photo illustration. (CM-Life | Nico Mendoza)

From a family Christmas table, back to the desk in the dorms covered in homework assignments, this spring semester crawled into view just after we made our resolutions and expectations lists. And this year, we want to see something different.

This year, we want to have healthy expectations, and we expect to have a healthy way of studying.

Our staff at Central Michigan Life and our fellow students at CMU know well the everyday battle of the gap between what the curriculum expects from us and that is actually a healthy amount of work. 

Whether a student on a scholarship or an international student, we are expected to take 15 credits per semester. But it is not the number of credits, but the load of work per course, that negatively affects our academic life. 

Moreover, our staff have shared experiences of “chasing down” professors for answers and grades, having no feedback from faculty on their work or dealing wtih professors’ authority in the classroom.

The university expects us to take 15 credits and study three hours per credit and engage in extracurricular and participate in events and to have a social life — how much more can we take from day to day?

On top, we are expected to do all of that — but how can we afford it?

We began 2023-24 year with tuition, housing, and, parking prices increase, and now, we carry on into spring with talks about a late withdrawal fee — a $50 charge if a students drops off a course after the first Friday of the semester.

Many of us have to have jobs in order to afford going to CMU and to go in our professional field. Here at CM Life, we are well familiar with the balance work at a professional newsroom and of And the problem is not in balance, but in limitations. Many students need jobs, but we are limited to 20 hours per week. We are limited to a minimum wage campus job and we are limited to a work and study.

Thus, our staff said that puts toxic expectations on us as students.

Melissa Hutchinson, executive director of Counseling Services at CMU Counseling Center, said that engaging in too much of anything, even good things like eating or sleeping, is unhealthy. That’s why, it’s important to moderate engagement, having downtime and time to process.

As each individual is unique, the way to balance engagement is going to be a personal journey through trial and error for each of us, Hutchinson said.

It is especially important to have time to process our lives right now, because of the technology and social media that surrounds us and excess of information that it offers, she said.

“You have the world’s problems in the palm of your hand 24 hours a day,” Hutchinson said.

This pressure of technology, as well as awarness of mental health, have led to an increase in demand of counseling services, she said. Hutchinson said counseling is about empowering individuals to build on their strengths and work toward their own goals.

“Counseling is not about me telling you what to do that’s going to make you happy and fulfilled,” Hutchinson said. “Counseling is about me providing a space for you, that allows you to explore what is working for you and what is not working for you.”

CMU Counseling Center offers initial appointments with counselors, and then counselors and a client delevop a plan to best meet client’s needs, Hutchinson said.

Since the fall 2023, the Counseling Center also offers a crisis support hotline for after business hours at 989-774-3381.

According to the Counseling Center’s Client Evaluation May 2023 report, 87.95% of clients said the center helped them improve their overall well-being.

Last year, the Counseling Center provided its services to 1,065 students. This fall semester, 696 students received counseling services there, Hutchinson said.

On top, since fall 2022, CMU Counseling Center hasn’t had a waitlist. 

However, CMU Counseling Center faced its highest waitlist in the fall of 2021, which was over 100 students. Then, students were learning to go back to school after COVID-19 and needing mental health support, Hutchinson said. 

But the big thing is being able to provide CMU students with such necessary services is having enough counselors.

“The reason that’s so difficult for me is because my goal is about supporting students and I would never want a student who needs help to not seek services here because they don’t think they can get in,” Hutchinson said.

Now CMU Counseling Center has nine and a half (sharing with another department) counselors. But to be able to provide CMU with more counseling services and preventional education, Hutchinson said the Counseling Center needs more staff, about three or four more counselors.

Since spring 2023, CMU Counseling Center lost two counselors and was not able to hire new ones due to lack of funding, she said.

“I advocate for more counselors all the time, because I see the student needs,” Hutchinson said. 

So, what do we at CM Life expect from CMU?

Going into this year, to the first classes of the spring semester, we at CM Life speak out to break the circle, to implement a healthy way of studying.

This semester we expect CMU to have a mutual respect between students and faculty, healthy pacing of courses and commitment. We expect professors to understand and accommodate students who are going through personal burdens and who have jobs.

We expect transparent and fair funding at CMU. We expect to know if the tuition increase will happen and to get a public hearing, not an announcement on July 4.

We expect to have access to such necessary services as counseling because students need mental health support.

We expect to actually see Diversity and Inclusion Efforts implemented on campus and not just talked about. We expect them to be professional and incorporated throughout the experience at CMU, and not just a video during orientation.

We expect to have safety measures and we expect to know that the university is prepared in case of a shooting on campus.

And we expect to be treated as human beings who deserve respect, understanding, kindness and support. 

Here, at CMU, this semester we expect to see our expectations to study healthy turn into “we do” a healthy way of studying.