Opinion: Professors Should Prioritize Their Students’ Mental Health

A classroom in the Science Complex with seats facing the projector. Mental health is important both in the classroom and outside of it (Photo by Rhiannon Slotnick).

Since the semester began, things have not gone the way I expected. 

I planned my schedule so it wouldn’t be stressful. I researched each of my classes and planned meticulously so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed every day. 

Unfortunately, my research did not reflect reality. I spend more than five hours a day outside of class doing homework. That’s more than last semester, even though I have the same number of classes. 

I’m not the only person who has had this problem. Friends of mine have also experienced this. Coursework takes up the majority of their time, leaving them with no time for anything else.

Homework is not the root of my stress, though. It’s my professors.

I have some mental health issues that require adjustments in the classroom. It’s hard for me to focus on an in-class reading when there’s background noise. I have trouble following along when someone is reading out loud. We’re supposed to pay attention to what’s in front of us, but I’m more focused on listening to the reader. 

I addressed these problems with my professors. Some have listened; others have not.

Professors should create an environment where students can learn. By doing this, students will pay attention during lectures and participate when necessary.

As I see it, some professors don’t take their student’s health into consideration. Giving too much homework is not a way to make us learn faster. It’s a way to burn us out faster.

Breh Ruger, a Battle Creek senior, said that in most cases, only one or two professors ignore accommodations in each department. However, the issue is more prevalent in STEM departments.

“It’s a lot more difficult to get accommodations for mental health in science courses,” Ruger said. “Letting students miss class and meeting accommodations is seen as more of a burden instead of something they should be doing for the well-being of their students.” 

As a Biology major, Ruger often has to avoid certain professors because they did not give her the accommodations she needed.

I’m in the second semester of my sophomore year. It’s only week three and like Ruger, I already have a professor I hope to avoid at all costs as I move forward with my major. 

This professor asked my entire class in a Google Form if we needed any accommodations in their class. In the first class, my accommodations were ignored. 

Their teaching style has also had negative effects on my mental health.

The vaguely explained assignments leave me confused. When I complete them, I’m graded so harshly that I question my worth as a writer and a student. 

Thankfully, not all professors act this way. 

Geology professor Joseph Lee-Cullin has done their best to make sure all students receive the help they need, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Lee-Cullin is an autistic person. They said they use that as a tool to notice things about their students through body language and expressions. 

“I’m here because I care a lot about students at the margins, and being able to be cognizant of what everyone goes through shows respect,” Lee-Cullin said. 

Lee-Cullin shows that they want all students to feel accommodated and comfortable in the classroom. They send forms, give verbal check-ins and make sure each student is aware of the college’s counseling services.

There are many professors who do their best to make sure students are given the tools they need to succeed. These professors understand that education is not always one size fits all. 

However, just because the majority know that, it doesn’t mean there isn’t change to be made.

I have had professors who say they want to do everything they can to make me comfortable, yet have ignored my accommodations, even when I tell them I need them. They don’t see what is wrong physically, so they don’t give me as much help.

This is a huge problem that needs to change. Every student deserves to be given the same attentiveness. It is important to provide this so no student gets left behind. 


Correction: On Feb. 1 at 11:38 am this article has been edited. It article previously articulated Lee-Cullin’s condition differently, and it has since been corrected to reflect identity-first language.

About Rhiannon Slotnick 29 Articles
Rhiannon Slotnick is a Junior from Detroit, Michigan. She is double majoring in English Literature Creative Writing and Sociology. She enjoys putting words on to paper for both work and for personal pleasure. If she's not writing, you can find her reading a book or stargazing around campus. You can contact her at rms15@albion.edu

1 Comment

  1. Why is it not the responsibility of the students? Are the professors trained psychotherapist? No but the should fill that role because a student isn’t mentally matured enough to attend a university! How is that going to prepare a kid for real life with a real job, or will they just work part time in fast food and complain they don’t make enough money.

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