It’s time to get rid of academia’s grind culture

Expecting students to give up everything for grades is unreasonable and unhealthy

Students’ health is more important than their academic success. PHOTO: Marvin Meyer / Unsplash

By: Carter Hemion, Staff Writer

These days, students are expected to prioritize hard work over all else. We grind all day, stay up late working, and skip meals to finish assignments. We are taught to give up everything for our grades, even our personal lives and health. The culture that encourages these habits at best interferes with maintaining a healthy learning environment, and at worst is incredibly dangerous for our well-being.

Valuing labour over learning is a threat to academia because it creates busy work at the cost of learning. SFU cannot claim to be a comprehensive or engaged university while favouring unattainable exam standards over applying knowledge in meaningful ways. The use of the GPA system creates a competitive environment for students, particularly through curved grading, and deprives students of collaborative learning opportunities.

It is unreasonable to expect students to thoughtlessly regurgitate lecture material into assignments for the sake of completion when understanding course content should be the focus. Quantifying learning in the form of repetitive assignments reduces its quality drastically. This standard only leaves students exhausted and without the critical thinking skills we expect to develop in university. 

Valuing our labour over our health is a threat to student lives. A North American psychology study on post-secondary students found that about 64.5% of students experience “overwhelming anxiety” and about 44.4% of students are “so depressed that they [have] difficulty functioning.” Expecting students to constantly prioritize grades and work well beyond what is healthy can place a dangerous amount of stress on students both mentally and physically. It is problematic that we are taught that neglecting our health for hard work is an achievement. 

We need post-secondary institutions to prioritize learning opportunities over assignments, and we need support from our professors and administrators to change this culture. Administrators need to adjust the grading scale to be more consistent and more reasonable for the average student and recognize that our GPAs are not worth the loss of learning. Compassion from professors needs to increase, and workloads need to be more reasonable. We cannot sustain the current standards and still consider our education to be comprehensive, and we cannot accept that neglecting our needs is the best path to academic success.