500 first-years share their stories of stress and the BSA
Students are experiencing a lot of stress and problems focusing and have to deal with technical issues during online classes. Student party Lijst Calimero and the Groninger Studentenbond (GSb) says it’s unfair to expect students taking online classes to ‘perform like any other year’. The stories were sent to the UG’s board of directors on Friday.
Universities of applied sciences have suspended the BSA. The ministry of education says that students at research universities have regular access to education, since it’s more theoretical rather than practical. The ministry also says that students at research universities have barely suffered any study delays due to the corona crisis.
The BSA requires first-year students at the UG to earn at least 45 out of a total 60 ECTS during the first year. If they don’t, they have to leave the programme. In early December, the Lower House passed a motion to not fully apply the BSA this year. But the UG had always said it would continue to apply it.
Responses to the decision have been mixed. While student organisations asked the university several times to cancel the BSA, some lecturers would rather that didn’t happen. They say it would harm the quality of education and ultimately be bad for students. The university will make a definitive decision on the BSA on Tuesday, January 12.
Loneliness and stress
According to Lijst Calimero and the GSb, the BSA is a cause of stress for many students. ‘Students’ well-being has always been an issue, but the pandemic has only exacerbated it’, they say. Earlier research showed that many students have problems focusing, and that they feel lonely and stressed.
GSb president Marinus Jongman says these issues have only become worse. ‘This research was done during the first wave. It’s six months later; we’re in the middle of an even stricter lockdown, and we don’t know if it’s going to get better any time soon. We keep hearing that students are having a really bad time.’
This is also clear from the stories the student organisations have collected. ‘We were shocked by the stories we read. We knew it was bad, but reading hundreds of these stories made it very real’, says Lijst Calimero faction chair Rozemarijn Gierkink.
Students are scared they’ll be kicked out of programmes they really want to follow, they have trouble focusing and finding motivation, and many of them are on the brink of a depression. One student writes: ‘I’m expected to earn points at a university I’ve never set foot in.’
Excerpts of the first-years’ stories
‘This year was supposed to be great. I was going to meet new people, enjoy my studies, and have a lot of fun. But the reality is so different: students spend their time alone in their rooms or in their parents’ house. I’ve barely met any new people and I have a hard time focusing in front of my computer at home. I can’t focus in my room. I’m practically depressed and I’m barely passing my exams.’
‘I get anxious almost every night because I’m worried I won’t have enough ECTS this year. The idea that I won’t be able to do this programme because I have trouble with online education is really stressful to me. The BSA looms over me like a giant, while the corona measures make it hard for me to keep it together.’
‘I’m an international student. I live alone, far away from my family. It was difficult to hear that my parents tested positive for Covid. The BSA puts the pressure on students to meet all these requirements. This has turned out to be difficult and impossible for first-year students.’
‘This year has been extremely hard. It’s had an immense impact on my mental health; the stress has reached new levels. I haven’t seen my friends or family, and locked in my room all alone, it’s been difficult to stay motivated to study.’