Finding time: expected coursework hours don’t compute

Megan Feichtel

I would have written this a while ago, but I didn’t have the time.

My best friend was in a car accident on Wednesday coming back from a graduate school interview. As she sat there waiting to be removed from her mangled car, we asked if there was anything she needed. Her text response was, “Can you get rid of my two papers due this Friday?” What does it say about Davidson that papers were her concern at that moment?

I came into Davidson College knowing it would be difficult. Students at the Decision Davidson events said the workload can be challenging. But, to me, a “challenge” is what I look for in an education. I like to be pushed and learn from challenges. Not pushing myself means I am not learning.

However, looking back on my 3+ years here, I feel like I haven’t learned as much as I should have. Between the supposed “12+ hours of class work time,” extracurriculars, 10 hours of work study, meetings with professors, meetings with other students, networking, keeping up with my close friends, basic necessities, and sleep (which isn’t actually optional), I can’t seem to remember what I ate for breakfast, let alone what we talked about in class.

Let’s do some math. (I’m a math major after all.)

A typical professional work week is 40 hours. You get up at 8, get to the office by 9, and then you leave between 5:30 and 6. Some work places are exceptions, but the average person is responsible for being active and ready to work for about 40 hours a week. They can then spend the rest of their time on other responsibilities: families, a second job, eating, sleeping, etc. A typical Davidson student is supposed to spend 48 hours a week on class work AT MINIMUM! This number includes class time – but for 4 classes totaling 12 hours a week, that still leaves 36 hours of “out-ofclass” work.

About 40% of the student body has a work-study position (about 800 of the 1,950 students), which is 10 hours a week for most students. So 48 hours now becomes 58 hours of work. Furthermore, a large percentage of students are athletes. The NCAA sets a limit of 20 hours a week for varsity athletes (including games/meets), but there are loopholes. The swimming and diving teams have practice for 12-13 hours and 3 lifting sessions a week. Track and field has around 16 hours of practice, not including meets. The football and basketball teams have to watch videos of teams playing for hours, which doesn’t count as practice time. An athlete I know doesn’t have time to eat lunch three days a week because practice only fits into his narrow gap between classes. After all of this stress, athletes cannot even have “sick days” because games/meets make them miss 3+ classes a semester. They could lose academic credit just for being sick. (For numerical purposes, let’s average in 15 hours a week for practice and 5 hours for games.)

In total: 168 hours in a week – 56 (8-hour sleep/night) – 48 (class) – 10 (work study) – 20 (athletics) = 34 hours.

That actually seems like a pretty high number. But 34/7 days = 4.86 hours. And remember that this number doesn’t include eating, getting ready, walking to and from those places, AND that 48 hours is a minimum. Some professors like to see that time as a challenge. First hand, I have spent over 20 hours on take home tests, computer programs that keep giving errors, and essays that just don’t seem to have a solid thesis.

For non-athletes, the total is 54 hours a week – or 7.7 hours of free time. But I also know that people take extracurriculars seriously at Davidson. So we may not be athletes, but we do work on projects outside of class, events, fundraisers, exercise, competitions, and extra lectures for at least 20 hours a week, too. I personally spent a lot of freshman spring stage managing “Guys and Dolls.” So yes, I asked for a challenge in my education, but there isn’t actually enough time in the day to take on those challenges.

So the solution is to ask for help, right? Did you know that the Student Counseling Center sees 50% of Davidson students before they graduate? Did you also know that the FOUR counselors in Student Health see 25% each of the student body at any given time? That’s 488 students at any given time. That’s 122 students per counsellor…talk about overworked. Any of them will tell you how much they hear about workload stress. So why are they hearing about the overloading but professors aren’t? There’s a power dynamic in play here. A few weeks ago, my professor assigned a project on the Thursday before break that would be due the following Thursday. Okay, fine. Buuuttttt… most of the students don’t have Adobe Premiere on their laptops, and we wouldn’t be on campus to access it. So I asked about extending the deadline.

Though the professor eventually gave extra time, he said he couldn’t just give us the extension because it would disrupt his power dynamic with his students. What? I am 22 years old. I respect my professors; they are brilliant, and they have worked very hard for their degrees. But I want our relationships to be seen as collaborative. I want to see them as role models and resources and not feel like an inferior being who cannot ask for help. Though it may have been said in jest (I’m not entirely sure) and though most of my professors will work with me, this comment illustrates how students are afraid to ask their professors for help. That one line on our resumes/transcripts about our GPAs can make or break some opportunities for us, and it’s entirely linked to our performance in the classroom. Technically, a C is average, but a 2.0 is failure.

Megan Feichtel `16 is a Mathematics major and Film and Media Studies minor from Richmond, Virginia. Contact her at mefeichtel@davidson.edu

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