The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Burnout of existing


Yes, this is harder when you’re Black

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, many have joined in reflecting on the events, changes and lessons the last 365 days have brought us. 

Certainly, there are many things worth mulling over, and much to be gained from such retrospection as we begin the process of moving forward with our lives. 

One problem: I am entirely too tired to do so.

Burnout is often understood as an exhausted state of mind and body brought about by prolonged stress. With such a broad definition, nearly anybody can relate to this feeling; classes under normal circumstances can be incredibly draining, and the varying forms of virtual learning that we have adjusted to have given rise to new, never-before-seen levels of weariness. 

The added, external pressures of the changing world around us only compounds this feeling, as the impacts of living through a global pandemic, a contentious presidential election cycle and bursts of civil unrest embedded themselves in our subconsciousness. 

On the few occasions where I have been able to connect with my peers—whether that be in person or in Zoom breakout rooms-it’s often all we can talk about. Our feelings are completely valid. Life is hard right now. My coursework is so heavy, and with no breaks there’s no real time to rest.

The issue, however, is that there are groups of students that are experiencing this burnout tenfold. Minority students, particularly Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and low-income students, have much more to worry about than just homework and attending class. We are navigating feelings of worthlessness that are projected onto us by the society we live in. We are experiencing violence, both physically and mentally, at extremely high rates. We are often working to support ourselves and/or our loved ones. On top of all of that, we then have to make the time and energy to engage in our coursework. 

Generalizing burnout and saying that we all are experiencing the same thing, or by equating it to mere universal exhaustion diminishes the unique and prolonged struggle of marginalized students. 

The spring and summer of 2020 brought racial, class-based and gender-based disparities to the forefront of our country’s consciousness. Many in society—though not all—either began, to or have readily accepted the reality of systemic oppression’s existence. 

People have begun learning about their privilege and how our society is steeped in social hierarchies. A widespread awareness has opened on these topics, particularly in places of higher education, and St. Joe’s is no exception. Many professors incorporated these discussions into their classes and continued the conversation in an attempt to prevent the usual pattern of systemic and cultural exclusion of social movements—like how many people allowed the original Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to fade to background noise, resulting in many people genuinely believing that BLM was a new trend created in 2020. 

This is all good and well, but still many professors’ practices have not reflected this supposed awareness. Instead, I have seen them follow the generalization-and-diminishing track. “We are all living through this pandemic together,” their syllabuses seem to say.

But are we?

My experiences this year have been pockmarked with feelings and situations I don’t entirely have the words to describe. I feel like I’ve been mourning people who look like me, my friends and family members for an entire year now. 

During the school year, I don’t even have the proper time to grieve; it’s always one thing after another, assignment, event, assignment, leaving me a neat 20-minute time block to process emotions that span a lifetime. 

I’m expected to analyze events of police brutality, or mass evictions, or death due to lack of access to health care, from a purely academic perspective—as if such topics don’t hold real, traumatic consequences for people like me. And to add insult to injury, nobody around me seems to care. 

Topics such as these for some of my classmates are just that—things to discuss during class time and write papers about, but never to have to deal with again. On the chance that I do get to express myself, I either receive awkward silence in response, or an apology from someone with their eyes downcast. 

I am tired of empty apologies. If you want to apologize, make sure your actions back up your sentiment. 

Not only do marginalized students—and by this I do not only mean students of color, but low-income students, commuters, transfer students, students with disabilities and others—have to face the barriers not only placed on them by society, but also those placed on them in the classroom. Acts of status-based violence or exclusion threaten those groups’ well-being as well. We should be able to understand, then, that such groups and their struggle must be considered when forming class policies, assignments and class practices. The pressure has become nearly insurmountable.

“Talking about it” is not the only way to reach social justice. If professors wish to show that they are truly conscientious of the struggles faced by their students and allies to the various communities in which they belong to, they also must understand the stress that comes with their coursework is felt disproportionately among minority students. 

There is no good reason that during a year of immense turmoil, a year of grieving and isolation and exclusion and lack of opportunity, that we also have to face a piling on of extra work that diverts our focus from our well-being to making sure we can keep our scholarships by staying afloat. 

This is not to say that marginalized students deserve special treatment. This is not a request for professors to care more for the needs of some groups over others. I am asking that professors be more willing to adapt—just as many of us have had to adapt to changing financial situations, or to increased violence towards our communities, as a result of, and in addition to, the pandemic. I am asking for some of their proposed allyship to come through in their classroom practices, to the benefit of all. 

As many of my peers have expressed, there is very little motivation to get through the week. Social life is no longer existent-at least not for those who adhere to COVID-19 guidelines—and “treating yourself” usually means a half-hour break to grab takeout, or watch an episode of something on Netflix while you internally stress about work. A small amount of care from the faculty we have grown to admire and respect would go a very long way.

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