From the Desk of the Dean of Students
November 13, 2008
Recently I saw a short video clip produced by Kansas State University students called "Vision of Students Today," which was a candid and thought-provoking look at what life is like at a large state university.
One of the pieces of this video had individual students silently holding up signs in succession that said:
I get 7 hours of sleep each night.
I watch 1.5 hours of TV.
I spend 3.5 hours each day online.
I spend 2.5 hours listening to music.
I talk for 2 hours on my cell phone every day. I spend 3 hours in class.
I spend 2 hours each day eating.
I work for 2 hours every night.
I spend 3 hours studying.
A student then holds up a sign that says, "That adds up to 26.5 hours each day."
The last student says, "I am a multitasker. I have to be."
Our academic and social environments are different from Kansas State, but we do have very busy students. We know that compared to their peers across America, St. Olaf students work more, volunteer more and study more, and it doesn't surprise us when statistics like those above show that students take on more each day than they can fit into 24 hours.
It can become a problem for some students, and yet others seem to thrive on it. Our faculty and staff often have a reflexive urge to tell your daughters and sons to "Slow down, for Pete's sake!" Yet students do not always welcome or listen to that advice.
For one thing, students are largely doing things we want them to do, and they get wide recognition and reward for it. Further, they often believe they operate better this way. Many students believe they are hardwired to multitask, and it is hard to get them to believe otherwise.
There are times when the stress of the environment builds up to the point where students need the services of a counselor, a nurse, a pastor or even a dean. And we are here for them. There is a well-used safety net in place for the high-wire acts students perform each day on campus. We try to educate students on the costs of the lifestyle choices they make, as well as respond to immediate needs. In the long run, we find that we can get most students back to equilibrium.
To be honest, there are no easy answers. It is another contradiction of life in America, where there are simply too many good things to fit into a 24-hour day -- or even a 26.5-hour day.
It definitely makes life on campus interesting, and it is a challenge many parents are quite well aware of from the busy days of high school. Again, with you, we will work to understand it, address it, respond to it and love them all for it.
Vice President and Dean of Students
St. Olaf College