Student-designed survey aims to gauge time management

Julia Jacobs, Assistant City Editor

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An Associated Student Government-supported survey about time management went live Feb. 4 with the intention of determining if a reduced number of required credits to graduate would benefit students’ health and performance, said Weinberg senior Anna Rennich, Associated Student Government academic vice president.

SESP junior Yair Sakols, who is not a member of ASG, designed the survey in an economics independent study under the observation of economics Prof. Mark Witte. Sakols spearheaded the project with the idea that a reduced course load could improve the mental and physical health of students, he said.

“We’re seeing issues of … overburdening and incredible stress on students to the point of taking leave or cutting back on social life or falling behind in classes,” Sakols said. “Our hope is this will start a bigger conversation on academics and the course load at Northwestern and change towards creating balanced student lives.”

The survey will gauge how students would spend their time differently if they were to reduce their class load to three or fewer classes, Witte said. It asks students to estimate how much time they spent per week in various areas of their lives when taking four or more classes compared with three or fewer.

“By what percentage do we see growth in hours of sleep, community involvement, growth in time talking to people’s mothers?” Witte said.

Sakols said he collaborated on the project with Rennich, who was already exploring the relationship between student stress and academic requirements within ASG after a survey at the end of last quarter demonstrated a need to address the issue.

In discussions with administrators this quarter, Sakols said there was concern that a reduction in required credits wouldn’t have a positive effect on students’ lives because that time would be spent on unproductive activities or other commitments that increase stress.

“The faculty are concerned … suppose we reduce the requirement, would this lead to more slacking?” Witte said. “Would students respond by working a lot less?”

As of now, Rennich expects ASG’s recommendation to be that the graduation requirements for Weinberg students should be reduced from 45 to 42 units, the same amount required at the University of Chicago, she said. The goal is to allow students to take only three classes per quarter with more frequency, she added.

“We’re hoping that the survey does show that students would use the opportunity to better their physical and mental health, also to spend more time on the classes they’re in,” Rennich said.

The survey will close about a week from Tuesday, Sakols said. The report on the survey results is expected to be complete by the end of the quarter to be published on the ASG website and presented to relevant administrators.

The survey is one piece of his larger goal to make sure struggling students are represented, Sakols said.

“We want to encourage students to talk to the senators, talk to professors, talk to administrators … about the issues they’re facing academically and really make their voices heard,” he said.

Olivia Exstrum contributed reporting.

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