Thinking aloud

We can all feel it coming, and some of us are already doing it: the inevitable sprint to the end of this experimental academic semester. For better and hopefully not for worse, each of us has had to weather this hybrid experience, drawing on whatever resources exist to complete tasks required of us.

With each step forward, we are still looking backward, to the way things were in the “before times,” and especially to the small opportunities to connect after a meeting or an event, in the elevator or crossing paths on the way to somewhere else. Those moments of human connection are where we became recharged. They remind us of why we came to UIC in the first place, why we stay, and why we keep identifying ways to make this a better institution for all of us.

On the other hand, I hear a chorus among faculty members: “The wheels are coming off!” I hear students say, “I am so overwhelmed, I don’t even know where to begin.” I hear administrators say, “I cannot wait for this semester to end!” The newness of virtual communication has worn off for sure. What’s taxing all of us: the incredible amount of mental energy that it takes to constantly shift between in-person and virtual communication and activities in a single day. Our students are working more, struggling to keep themselves together in all the ways that matter—academically, emotionally, financially. Faculty and staff alike are struggling to keep up with the volume of commitments, obligations, and expectations. We will need to have some public conversations about how we got through this difficult period. But, right now, we also need a break.

Since I’m thinking aloud here, I do believe that we need a campus-wide collective mental health day once a semester; a day that promotes wellness for the entire campus and provides opportunities for members of our community to connect over other things besides the usual—planning the course schedule for next semester, hustling to get a class project done, meeting about how to complete yet another report. In a way, that’s part of what the Women’s Leadership Symposium used to offer to women staff at UIC: a space to breathe, connect, learn, and grow. We don’t have WLS anymore, but like so many other feminist interventions, UIC already has models for how we can create a better, more just and inclusive campus. We should use them.

While we figure out the ways forward in terms of our collective healing, WLRC is available for exhaling, doing online classes, etc. Call before you come: 312-413-1025.

Upcoming events to check out:

Our 30th anniversary programming continues with a virtual screening and discussion of Athlete A. Please tell your classes, and especially the athletes in your life, to watch the film and join the conversation!

SAVE THE DATE: Tuesday, November 30 is this semester’s iteration of Speaking, Writing, Being, which will focus on “Black Feminist Methodologies.” More details coming soon!

Until we see each other on screen or at an event,
take care of yourselves and each other!

Natalie Bennett