Last week, the Optimist’s Editorial Board published an opinion piece about ACU tradition and student stress, and I found the article problematic for a variety of reasons. First off, valuing tradition is a totally separate issue from academic stress and Sing Song pressure. If the Editorial Board really believed that tradition is responsible for student stress, it would recommend canceling Sing Song, not canceling classes. For that reason, I suggest that we look, not at tradition, but at the fundamental tension in Sing Song stress: the tension between academics and extra-curricular activity.
Here’s the thing: the point of coming to Abilene Christian University is to get an education. Our professors are under no obligation to help us out with the extra-curricular pressure we have put on ourselves. Granted, it’s a nice gesture. My Bible professor gave my class full participation credit just for showing up during Sing Song week, and I appreciated it. But while we all appreciate flexibility and understanding from our professors, we should never expect it from them. To suggest that we should cancel class for Sing Song is absurd; such a statement implies that we should subordinate academics to our voluntary activities. In the end, the article reveals an emphasis on a university experience rather than a university education.
While I appreciated the disclaimer that “every extra-curricular activity is completely voluntary,” the Editorial Board immediately contradicted itself by saying that we are “forcing students to practice for eight hours or more a week” while attending class. No one is forced, and even in the context of social clubs, club involvement is a voluntary act. If Sing Song is is all-but-required for club members, the solution is in reforming the club, not adjusting our class schedule.
Co-directing the junior class act was my personal choice. I examined what I could handle and then decided to make a commitment. I made that commitment, fully understanding that I could have major exams or projects due during Sing Song week (and I did). My Greek professor, for instance, was well within his right to schedule an exam right before our Wednesday dress rehearsal.
What we need is not for someone to cancel classes for us; what we need is to act like adults and understand what we can really handle. We have to learn our limits, and act within them. After all, learning is why we’re here.