Editorial: Running on empty

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On Oct. 6, Moravian College announced that the following day, all classes would be canceled, calling the impromptu school holiday a “Clement Weather Day.”

The idea behind this day off was to give students the chance to relax, take a small break and enjoy some of the last warm days of fall before the Pennsylvania winter rolls in the next few weeks. Obviously, while an extra day off is far different from a structured fall pacing break, which Lehigh students are accustomed to, our neighboring college across the river recognized students need for some time designated to destressing.

This year, for obvious reasons related to COVID-19, Lehigh decided to move the typical October pacing break to the week of Thanksgiving, giving students a full week off from classes at the end of November rather than the usual long holiday weekend. While we appreciate the sentiment and the ability for students to have an extended amount of time for celebration, Thanksgiving break falls at the very end of the semester before finals.

As we hit the halfway mark on a tremendously trying and difficult semester, students are not only feeling the brunt of COVID-19 related challenges, but also the burnout point with their schoolwork and Lehigh-related endeavors. 

Everyone deserves a rest. No one can fire on all cylinders if they’re running on empty.

Students across all class years living both on and off-campus have been trying tirelessly to adapt and maintain their academic and extracurricular activities in an unprecedented time. The same goes for the staff and faculty that have been altering syllabi, typical coursework and general student and staff relationships in order to make this semester as comfortable and “normal” as possible. Nonetheless, our campus community is tired.

Additionally, this past week, the Lehigh administration decided not to cancel classes on Election Day despite strong Faculty Senate support for the day off. The administration’s argument for not cancelling was that it would be too difficult to adjust syllabi in an already altered semester.

But if Moravian can adjust for one singular day off, why can’t Lehigh? Especially when Nov. 3 has cause-related action items attached to it? And after all, the very faculty who would be left adjusting their teaching plans for the day off are the very ones who voted in favor of cancelling classes on Election Day.

At most public institutions across the country, students and staff have the day off to best enable them to participate in the nation’s electoral process and practice their civil duties. Although Lehigh is a private institution, that does not mean they shouldn’t recognize the importance of voting especially in such an important election.

This past summer, Lehigh students came together to create the Hawk the Vote movement, which petitioned for having the day off on Election Day to give the Lehigh community the maximum opportunity to be able to vote. The petition has more than 1,500 signatures. Their efforts in this arena were tremendous to say the least. 

But it shouldn’t take a student-led petition to make the Lehigh administration recognize the importance of the upcoming election, or the electoral process in general.

Given the lack of time off from academics and the upcoming election, here are a few things to keep in mind as the rest of October plays out:

First and foremost, take care of yourself. Give yourself some personal time away from your academic responsibilities to do things that help you destress and make you happy. We’ve hammered home the point of being kind to yourself and checking in on your own mental health during the pandemic. This is a continual practice to stick with as the weight of the semester becomes heavier.

Recognize that it’s not just you. Your classmates, peers and even your professors are struggling with the hustle and bustle of this semester too. 

Additionally, make a plan to vote. The last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 19. Whether you plan to vote in person or via mail-in ballot, the responsibility lies heavily on you to take these steps in order to have your voice heard. 

We’ll get through this together. If you need help, do not wait: reach out now. Check in with someone today. Be a good friend. As we’ve argued time and time again, whatever frustrations the administration has brought, it’s the support of one another — students, staff and faculty — that make this place special and will continue to do so.

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