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Rushing through syllabus week: The case against ‘play’ term

By Greta Hallberg, Columnist

At the risk of sounding like I'm bragging, I'm a fairly high-achieving student. With two majors and a minor, I have a rigorous course load, even in my last semester of college. I maintain a solid GPA, despite the foil of the economics department. I'm pursuing a career as a journalist in Washington, D.C., but I haven't landed my dream gig yet. Besides a weekly column in the Miami Student, I am the editor-in-chief of Up Magazine. I just completed my stint as treasurer of my sorority. It is safe to say that with classes, extra-curriculars, the job search and pretending that I still have a social life, I'm stretched pretty thin.

That's not very unique. Many Miami students are as involved, if not more, than I am and follow the same "work hard, play hard" ethic. We, the over-involved, are organized and diligent individuals. We relish in the satisfaction of making deadlines and acing quizzes.

Yet, only three weeks into the semester, I've already missed an assignment, fallen behind on the readings, overslept for a class and cried more than I am willing to admit.

The culprit of all this disorganized behavior? Winter term.

I took two online classes in January. One was a journalism requirement I had to fill, a class I took to make room for interesting electives. I also took an online chemistry course to complete my Miami Plan. I was completely disinterested. Not to mention I was distracted by the million other things I'd have rather been doing, like getting lunch with high school friends, playing with my dogs, washing the dishes or literally anything else.

I checked off boxes on my transcript, but my parents paid a lot of money for a lame class that didn't teach me much.

I was anxious to get back to Oxford and return to a normal schedule and brick and mortar classrooms. Upon returning to campus, I failed to schedule a meeting with the executive team for Up Magazine. No surprise, our staff is mostly comprised of smart, stylish and creative women, many of whom are in Greek life. In preparation for recruitment during the first two weekends of the semester, many sororities had meetings early in the week to practice songs and get ready for the eager new freshman to come through rush.

As a student leader, it is already difficult to coordinate meetings without the added time-suck of sorority recruitment. With rush happening the first two weeks of school, scheduling a meeting was downright impossible.

Up is an incredibly collaborative process. A photo shoot only happens with a photographer, stylist and models, in addition to the writers who put the story to paper. Nothing happens without people working together, and that usually involves being in the same place. The production of the magazine was put on hold for six weeks while most students celebrated their extended break by binge-watching Netflix. It was delayed even longer when rush took up the time of the majority of our staff.

Miami students tend to believe that syllabus week is just an extended weekend, but I actually had a lot of work to do. I needed a productive Sunday at King Library, but I was not afforded that luxury because I was required to be at recruitment all day until we finished voting at 2:00 a.m. on Monday morning.

I've heard of a time before I came to Miami when recruitment took place before the start of the semester. Both the older girls and potential new members came back a week early for rush. That means the long days of talking to girls and the late nights of voting happened without the stress of school. We need to go back to this schedule.

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Winter term does more harm than good. The online class opportunities actually impede growth and learning, rather than stimulate a curious and academic mind. The extended break slows the productivity of student organizations, especially those like Up Magazine and other media groups that need to meet in person. With extra-curriculars and transitioning into a new class schedule, sorority recruitment is too much to take on in those first two weeks back. I have not heard of a single Greek woman who actually likes this rush schedule or thinks it creates strong academic habits to carry you through the semester.

I understand the financial incentives of winter term. It brings in revenue for the school when more students elect to take classes or travel abroad. However, Miami University is an academic institution. Our administration should be motivated by the intellectual development of the student body, not how much money it can suck out of it. The focus of a university should be its students, and for us, the costs of winter term far outweigh the benefits.