Brown University students overwhelmed by class, activism

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Students at Brown University are claiming that the combination of classwork and social activism is causing them mental anguish as they try to keep up with academics while maintaining a busy protest schedule, the Brown Daily Herald reported on February 18.

David, an undergraduate student whose name was changed, told the student-run paper that students are “breaking down, dropping out of classes and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on.” He added that “stressors and triggers” made it difficult to balance class, work, social time and activism.

Students say that the activism was set off by an alleged assault of a “Latinx” student – the gender-neutral description of a Latino or Latina – and by two “racist” columns published by the student paper.

Although Brown University President Christina Paxson sought to mollify student protestors with a 19-page proposal accompanied by a $100 million plan a for a more “just and inclusive campus,” students still weren’t happy.

Justice Gaines, a student who uses the pronouns xe, xem and xyr, found it necessary to aid peers in coping with their stress. Meanwhile, Gaines “had a panic attack and couldn’t go to class for several days.”

Both students said that notes from university deans helped extend deadlines and cushion their academic assignments.

Brown University assistant dean of student support services Ashley Ferranti told the student newspaper that about 90 percent of Dean’s notes are accepted, adding that students who are increasingly active in protests find themselves strapped with academic problems.

Sophomore Liliana Sampedro worked recently on the  “diversity and inclusion action plan” released by Brown University earlier this month. But she said that work caused her her to ask for academic extensions, adding: “I hadn’t eaten. I hadn’t slept. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally.”

Deans are working together with students to help them find accommodations, the paper reported. According to Ferranti, student activism is  an “important part of the academic learning experience.”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis