Dear 100 Hour Board,
In light of recent events happening with the suicide at the Tanner building, do you think the BYU business school is too competitive and tough on it’s members?
Dear Me Too,
I don't think it's just the business school, and I don't think it's just BYU. There's a deeper problem running in the roots of American society (and probably global society, to some extent.) We're far too focused on comparison and competition. You always have to be stronger, better, smarter, faster (is this a daft punk post?) than the next person or you won't be qualified for good jobs, you won't be 'as successful' as your peers. Not only that, but success has been redefined as money and fame and power... and to get those things, you have to be the best at something.
Thanks to this twisted conception of success and the inescapable world of comparison that we live in, we've grown to fear failure more than ever before, I think. Because the minute you fail, you're 'not as good' as someone who didn't fail (which is utter nonsense, because it means you're gaining experience that they don't have, but it's rare for someone to see it that way anymore.) Falling short of expectations has become something earth-shattering. Human beings are more stressed and more depressed than we have ever been in the past, and comparative nature and fear of failure are two of the biggest contributors, in my opinion.
So is the business school too tough or competitive? Sure, maybe. But BYU is too competitive. The whole country is too competitive. People get off on being better than other people instead of celebrating the successes, experiences, and even failures of other people. It's not a university-specific or program-specific problem. It's an epidemic of human mentality and morality, and we just happened to be part of an institution that reflects that, and it appears that a tragic event occurred that may have been a result of that mentality.
I feel awful and sad for not only the girl involved, but her family, friends, and everyone else who was directly or indirectly affected by what happened. I've felt the effects of what happened on a deep emotional level. I will say, though, that we don't know any other surrounding circumstances that may have influenced this woman and her decision. She could have been struggling with any number of things, and the stress about her rigorous college experience was just one additional stressor. Who knows.
Remember to love yourself, love each other, and remember that other people do love you. Reader, I love you. By the very nature of you existing, I love you. A bunch of anonymous Board writers love you. Please remember that failures do not keep you from living a life of joy and fulfillment.
I'm sad too. It's terrible to see something so heartbreaking happen to a fellow student. I was shocked to see the news of what happened and throughout the week you could tell that the tragedy had effected all of BYU campus. My heart goes out to the family of the student as well as her professors and classmates, and anyone who was present at the time of the event.
Sorry for taking so long. This question came in right before the tsunami that was finals, and after a bit of break I'm finally up to answering questions again. This past semester has been one of the hardest semesters ever for me, but it's also been one of the most rewarding. It's changed my perspective on the difficulty of school. What I learned is that trying to do too much is the root of hardness. We can offset hardness with proper resources, but ultimately there's only so much we can do. The key to managing hardness in my opinion is not doing too much.
That sounds kinda obvious, but it really comes down to that. There are different ways to make college work. We have to balance school, work, extra curricular activities, social life, church, and our own physical and mental health. Obviously school is an important priority, but our physical and mental well being is important too. I feel like many people leave their well being as their last priority. I think it's okay to take rough semesters, and stay up late writing papers, but if it's damaging our physical or mental health we need to adjust our priorities. I won't list them all, but some of the ways we can make school easier are: take fewer credits, withdraw and retake a class if we need to, do the best with the time we have and be okay with a few B's and C's, and get help in classes from fellow students/TAs/professors. Your options for lightening your load might not be the best, but you do have them.
Now, there are situations in which students can't just choose a lighter course load. Some majors are very time intensive or require high GPAs to enter the major or get into grad school. For students that can't choose an easier course load, it's really important to take advantage of resources to help them. For example, this semester was my hardest ever, and I quickly learned that I needed all the help I could get. The difficulty of my classes forced basically everyone in the program to get help from TA's and the professors more than ever. The other thing that happened is because we all were stuck on campus very late, we started to bond together and look after each other. We became friends and not only did we start helping each other with our projects, but we started bringing food for each other, making sure that our classmates were sleeping, and caring about one another. It was something that was really cool because none of us could have succeeded on our own, but we were able to together.
BYU has amazing resources for students. There are TA labs to help with classes, Campus Employment and Financial Aid offices to help with work, Conflict Resolution to help with housing disputes, bishops to help us in our spiritual lives, Student Health Services for our physical well being, and Counciling and Psychological Service for our mental health (big shout out for CAPS). College may be tough, but we don't have to do it alone.
It's difficult to determine what is "too hard", because every student has different background circumstances, different course loads, and different capabilities. I think programs should definitely take a look and make sure it's possible to do well in the programs and still have enough time for students to take care of themselves.
Ultimately though, I think the most important thing is to create a culture that is less competitive, and puts less pressure on the students. Guesthouse does a fabulous job talking about this in her answer so I won't elaborate too much. I just want to say that I agree with her 100%. Many of the classes I was in this semester were graded on a curve or had competitive aspects. It stressed some of the more competitive students out, but the majority of the students didn't care about competing and helped each other out knowing that it could negatively impact them. It meant so much knowing that my classmates cared about me and wanted me to succeed really helped me get through the semester. If BYU can help foster those types of atmospheres it would do a lot to help students.
Sorry for taking so long and writing such a long answer. I just really care about our readers and wanted to write something helpful. If you're feeling stressed or like you can't do it, that's a totally normal feeling. But please do get some help and consider making things easier on yourself. If you ever need anyone to talk to CAPS is great and you can always talk to us. Hope this helps.