This is an unusual time on a university campus – study days and final examinations. There are few students walking around. They’re all huddled in study areas, packed into library spaces, grouped in empty classrooms. Inside the library, you see some furiously typing away to finish final papers. Others are in very high alert mode, apparently finishing take-home exams, usually surrounded by course materials. Still others have the strange looks of sleep deprivation. Across campus, one sees disheveled undergrads delivering their final paper to their professor’s office. Coffee consumption is at an all-time high. There’s not much noise on campus (seems fine), but also not as much laughter (sorely missed). Seriousness abounds.
The thoughtful and inventive library staff has created a variety of ways for students to de-stress during finals week. These are clever ideas that offer a break from their studying. But they also permit a little nap taking while in Lauinger. Depending on when you’re walking around study areas, students displaying intense attention sit next to students who are sleeping. Study-sleep-eat-study-study.
With fewer and fewer hours of light each day, I walk to and from work in darkness each day. But there’s a great benefit to that now because the wonderful campus grounds crew really outdid themselves this year. The trees in Healy circle with their bright lights are prettier this year than I remember from last year. The Dahlgren Quad Christmas tree, framed by the oldest buildings of Georgetown seems like something out of a Hollywood movie depicting what a beautiful campus should be at the holiday time. The Christmas tree outside the president’s office, the poinsettias, and the decorations hanging from lamps in Healy Hall uplift the spirits instantly. Even the ICC Galleria is bedecked with multiple lighted trees. Tonight, we lighted the first candle of the menorah for the start of Hanukah.
This beauty just doesn’t arise without effort. But the grounds crews are so efficient; I don’t remember seeing them construct all the decorations. It’s clear, however, the work is substantial and ongoing. Equipment is needed to hang the lights; the poinsettias drink a lot of water during the week; lights need to be checked and adjusted.
As an administrator, I don’t feel the full anxiety and fatigue of the finishing up the term that students face. It might be a little easier for me to appreciate the work of the grounds crew that transform the campus so effectively. On the other hand, I imagine that seeing the lighted trees might offer a small psychological boost to students nearing the end of semester. The lights and the trees might remind them that it won’t be long before they can rest. Some will return to homes remote from DC and enjoy wonderful renewed warmth that only families offer. They will appreciate days in which they don’t face the burden of an upcoming assignment or required readings. They will sleep. Those near graduation may realize that it may be the last time “the kid from college” will return. They will reflect. In the depth of their labors ending the term, I think the decorated campus might give them hope toward those days of rest and reflection.
I’m not sure the students get a chance to thank the workers that make the campus so pretty at this holiday time, but I hope that staff knows that what they do offers a bit of cheer, hope, and anticipation to students enduring their most stressful time of the semester.