I don’t think I have to preface this piece with a definition of burnout. Almost all of us are experiencing it — that exhausting feeling like you’re constantly running but not actually going anywhere. Like a treadmill you’ve been on for a year and a month now. 

Administration keeps throwing the word around, along with several other nouns that might make them look sympathetic to our situation. The most recent tactics have been particularly offensive, though. I’m sure some of you have noticed the brightly colored posters and Instagram posts. Let’s talk specifically about why these efforts aren’t just unhelpful, but actively mocking the issues students are facing.

The orange poster

“Ughhhh” isn’t exactly a good descriptor of what you’re trying to advertise. It just seems like a lame attempt at relating to the youths. 

It continues: “total isolation is a choice.” Um, ouch? It’s a pandemic. Feeling isolated, or physically being isolated, are very real, serious, and sometimes unavoidable consequences of a deadly pandemic. Such a general statement is a terrible way to address it. 

They even go on to recommend: Group counseling vent sessions (not exactly what everyone is looking for, since you’re likely to spend most of that time listening to stranger’s problems), physically moving spaces (as if it’s possible for many people to get off campus regularly), and signing up for CCC events (most of which are either over Zoom or a “Take and Make”). 

The language of the orange poster dumps all the responsibility on us, phrasing issues of isolation as a personal shortcoming from students who aren’t trying hard enough to connect. 

The purple poster

“‘Oof. Right?’ That’s what the kids would say, right? We, the administration, understand what it’s like to have deadline after deadline with no pause, no interaction with your professors, and nothing but asynchronous lectures. To have no idea what kind of job market you’ll be going into. It makes you feel, ‘oof,’ right?” It’s like being talked down to by a robot. Why would they think such a dismissive title followed up with the same list of mediocre resources they regularly share would make us feel heard or supported in any way?

UCC is always overworked, even in a normal semester, and you only get the number of sessions they think you need. Feel like you’re in a tough spot but were only awarded six sessions? Too bad. And the CARE network isn’t a resource in itself; all they do is send you an email letting you know of the other resources on campus, and offer to meet with you to talk about them. Finally, UR Connected Coaches were the University’s response to their lack of mental health oriented staff — but it’s just other students who’ve gone through fewer than five training sessions who have no other qualifications to properly handle potentially traumatic situations.

The green poster

“Well shit, pandemics happen.” Sure — once in a century. At UR, maybe one other cohort ever has had to deal with a full-fledged pandemic. Why are they trying to play off a once-in-a-lifetime crisis so lightly? Extend a little sympathy beyond telling us we aren’t using the Basic Needs Hub enough. Your eye-catching censored curse word is way too blasé. 

This Instagram post

Again, they’re making students responsible for their own burnout and stress, when it was never our fault. Switching study spaces isn’t going to change the fact that so many of us have multitudes more work and no set lecture schedule. The smiley face mocks me with its smugness.

These resources could potentially help. But they’re much less effective when admin shifts the blame for burnout and pandemic-related stressors onto students through dismissive and trivializing language. According to admin, it’s up to the suffering student to actually do something about the problem that admin helped create, while admin feigns empathy. Don’t fall for these lame excuses for outreach.

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