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First “Working Differently Day” receives mixed reactions

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Maddi Shinall

On Feb. 7, Grinnell College students, faculty and staff had their first Working Differently Day (WDD), one of three days in the spring semester where no classes, meetings or practices will be held. This initiative was announced in a campus-wide email sent at the end of last semester, aiming to provide the campus community more unscheduled time. 

 Many students spent their first WDD catching up and getting ahead with homework.

“It’s been a good catchup day, and it’s nice to have it at the beginning of the semester when things are so crazy,” said Alex Carlon `25. “I’ve been here [at the HSSC] all day doing homework and remote work for my campus job.”  

Working Differently Days were inspired by Dean Elaine Marzluff, who found that pandemic fatigue was affecting students, staff and faculty on campus. Despite messaging from the administration about slowing down and streamlining workloads, levels of stress remained high. 

“We were trying to give people permission to do less, and it wasn’t happening the way I might have wanted. [WDD] seemed like a more disruptive way to change the norm,” Marzluff said. 

While the homework was the same as any other day, many students used the opportunity to catch up on sleep, as well as tidy their living spaces and get organized. Some compared it to a standard three-day weekend. Nicholas Campion `22 mentioned the odd timing of the first WDD and said “I hope it doesn’t disrupt class schedules too much.” Some students are citing an increase in workload to compensate for the missed day of class. 

“I feel like Working Differently Day allowed me to enjoy the weekend more, but my workload feels like it has increased. I have a 12-minute presentation on Wednesday, and I don’t think that would be the case if we didn’t have today off.” said Leia Sohn `23.  

Marzluff says that these extra assignments are likely due to how early the first WDD fell in the semester. “I have heard faculty reflect on that themselves and say, ‘Yeah, I may have tried to adjust in a way that wasn’t going to work, and I’ll do it better for the next Working Differently Day.’”  

Taj Lalwani `24 mentioned that this measure appears to be in response to a survey sent out by SGA last semester, which gauged student opinion on the current academic climate at Grinnell. He remarks that this academic stress and subsequent feelings of depression are “disproportionally impacting students of color on campus” and to change this, it will require more than three Working Differently Days during the spring semester. 

“Having this one day to catch up on work is not doing anything to solve problems with the academic culture on this campus that causes stress and depression,” said Lalwani. 

According to Marzluff, WDD was designed to alleviate added stress specific to the challenges of the pandemic, which has been affecting academics at Grinnell for almost two years. Addressing the deeper concerns about academic culture at Grinnell is something that will take more time and more tools. 

“We have that intense culture that students have described, and then you layer on the pandemic, and that just adds to it and so just trying to at least pull it back somewhat,” Marzluff said. “I think will remain to be seen if [WDD] has accomplished any part of what we’re trying to do, and that will tell us if it is one of the tools in our toolbox to think through how we can continue to address that climate.”  

The emphasis on unscheduled time as the priority of WDD was especially effective because it allowed students to use the time as they needed.  

“I think [WDD] is a good measure, but there could have been clearer communication across departments about what it exactly means,” Carlon said.  

For students with campus jobs, WDD has caused some confusion as to whether they needed to attend their shifts or if those were among the days’ cancellations. Spaces like the library and the math lab were in use on WDD when many students are focusing their time and energy on schoolwork. Campion, who works in the math lab, remarked that “students still need help with calc homework.”  

Still, students found this day to be a nice break from routine. “[WDD] has had a positive impact on my workload,” Campion said. “It’s nice to have a day off class when Grinnell never cancels class.”  

Grinnell College will be “working differently” again on March 1 and April 27.  

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Maddi Shinall, Visuals Editor
Maddi is a fourth-year political science major from Iowa City, Iowa. She is likely either listening to Taylor Swift or drinking an iced chai (with oat milk) from the Grill at the moment, possibly both.
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