Snow more Mr. Nice Sky

Opinion editor laments the chilling spring and student burnout

In the opening line of T.S. Eliot’s most famous poem “The Waste Land,” he states that “April is the cruelest month.” While this is often taken out of context (as I am doing so here), I believe it stands true in the college experience as a whole, especially in the time of an ongoing global pandemic.
“The Waste Land” is, essentially, about the Spanish flu epidemic of the early 1920s. Written in 1922, Eliot expresses the frustration that April brings, with its promises of joy and new life as people continue to suffer and die around him. As campus COVID-19 cases continue to rise, no mask mandates are put in place, and Springfest continues as is, I cannot help but relate to Eliot’s situation. While we have much better medical technology today than he could have ever hoped for, I relate to the idea of feeling listless as things crumble around me while the earth dares to move on.
I am currently recovering from the usual April burnout. For outsiders who are unaware of this phenomenon, a shockingly large portion of Allegheny students tend to burn out around the end of March and the beginning of April. This is largely due to the weight of midterms and impending final exams, but this semester is also due to the structure of the academic calendar.
Many students have lamented the implementation of two separate modules for the spring 2022 semester, most due to the fact that they simply thought it was inefficient. Similarly, I think the modules were a bad idea due to both the resistance to pivot to online learning as well as the inevitable campus-wide burnout it creates.
From my understanding, the initial purpose of the module system was to keep students off campus during flu season. This made sense in the spring of 2021. From what I understood, the module system was implemented in the spring 2022 semester to enable us to pivot to online learning if classroom learning became difficult due to campus illness. However, instead of switching to online learning as initially intended, the school decided to have us simply mask in classrooms. I suppose this might make sense, given that we all know COVID can only spread in classroom settings and it is not possible to contract COVID in other public settings, but I digress.
The module system pushed back the usual burnout period for students. In a normal semester, we tend to see burnout happening in late March, usually wrapping up for the majority of students in early to mid-April. Since we had a week-long module break in addition to an entire week of spring break, the burnout schedule has been pushed back; from what I have seen, and from what my professors have admitted to seeing, students are still currently struggling to get out of spring burnout. This is affecting not only classroom attendance and performance, but also students’ extracurricular activities. We are tired. We are tired of being tired. We do not know how to stop feeling this way, but we know that we need to in order to get things done.
And this brings me to my next point: the world has the audacity to keep turning. The sun still dares to rise, the flowers think they’re clever when they bloom, and it all feels like an effort to mock our internal and external struggles. When we are young, there are a few different things we are taught about April. The most general one is that April means it is springtime. Thanks to a certain groundhog, we are experiencing an extra six weeks of winter. While I cannot entirely blame Phillip, as scientifically there will always be six more weeks of winter after February 2, it is nice to have a sort of scapegoat.
I have lived in Crawford County my entire life, and as I expressed earlier this semester, I hate winter with every fiber of my being. I hate being cold, I hate dealing with snow and I hate falling on my butt when the sidewalks do not get salted. I have never experienced an April that did not contain several false summers and even more “second winters.” As of writing this, it feels like we are on our fourth winter. Last week I wore a cute skirt, and this week I am bundled up in a hoodie and sweatpants. While we are led to believe early on that April means springtime, I for one have never experienced this being even remotely true as I look out the window and witness even more snowfall.
To make matters worse, Springfest is currently underway at Allegheny. While I understand that this is a fun tradition at Allegheny, and that only my class was able to experience Springfest in a pre-pandemic world, I think it is unfortunately all too soon to continue with this event. Many advertisements for Springfest claimed it is “back and better than ever,” and that is the problem: we are still living in a global pandemic. While I would normally just say that Springfest parties are annoying, it pains me to say that they are also just entirely unsafe. COVID is rapidly spreading on our campus, and it feels like no one is noticing or caring. As someone who is immunocompromised, and whose closest friends are also immunocompromised, it feels like no one cares about us or our safety. Yes, we can simply avoid parties. I am fine with that, as I am not a party person anyway. But we still have to attend classes with people who go to parties. We still have to sit next to them, as they are unmasked and within my personal bubble. Wearing a mask myself only does so much; it constantly feels like there are no efforts being made to take care of folks with disabilities and compromised immune systems. I had thought we were all “Gator Safe, Gator Strong,” but with the continuation of Springfest, it has become clear to me that only able-bodied people are included in this sentiment.
For these reasons, April is altogether a very cruel time. It falls under a period where we are already exhausted, it gives us false hope of warmer weather and ultimately feels like a never-ending uphill battle, and a wintry one at that. As I struggle to finish writing my comp, I see those closest to me struggling in their schoolwork, and I see others struggling to maintain a social life as we all suffer under the crushing weight of this semester. In spite of it all, I am trying my best to remember the other thing we were taught about this month: “April showers bring May flowers.” The idea behind this is that it rains a lot in April, but it helps the flowers to bloom better and brighter in May. With everything that my friends are going through, and that I am going through myself, all I can say is: those better be some damn good flowers.