OPINION | Architecture students are grossly overworked

Phoebe Hurwitz, Views Editor

Students in Tulane’s Architecture school report working until late hours of the morning. (Will Embree)

The importance of getting enough sleep is already emphasized in our society. A lack of sleep can impact our memory, cognition and ability to absorb new information. For Tulane University students with rigorous academic demands, a sleepless night is our worst enemy.

Unfortunately, though, some of Tulane’s brightest minds, those that perhaps require it most, are deprived of sleep as a result of relentless workloads and competitive culture. Tulane School of Architecture students are struggling to find time to sleep and keep up with their work amidst an unforgiving culture with seemingly unreachable standards. 

The assigned workload in the architecture school is so overwhelming that students must make sacrifices in other areas of their lives. Often, this means sacrificing sleep or other school work. “The only option to avoid pulling an all-nighter would be to spend the majority of every weekday in the studio, and I have found myself missing the majority of my other, equally important, classes to stay and do work,” architecture student Emma Clark Luster said. 

Architecture students are forced to choose between missing work or losing sleep. 

“In previous semesters, I made a bad habit of pulling all-nighters on a constant basis, at least once a week, but often two or three nights a week. It was extremely unhealthy,” architecture student Chase Isget said. “This semester, I’ve made it a personal rule that I do not pull all-nighters anymore, but it has impacted that amount of work I’ve produced.” 

Late or sleepless nights spent working in the architecture studio are completely normalized. “Depending on the proximity to our final review, people leave studio from around 1 am – 7 am,” Leandra Goytizolo said.

Professors are certainly aware of the unhealthy sleeping habits that their students have developed. In fact, some students have been encouraged by professors to stay up all night, if necessary. Architecture student Nat Cerra recalls spending 35 hours straight in the studio, with only one meal and only standing to use the restroom.

Architecture students spend so much time in the studio attempting to finish an insurmountable amount of work that many remark skipping meals. Students have lost dangerous amounts of weight in a short time during particularly busy weeks. Leading up to reviews, Luster said she had “neither the time nor energy to think about meals.” 

Despite a lack of sleep, skipped meals and other missed obligations, architecture students still work tirelessly to impress their professors, who may become their future employers. Tulane architecture professors serve as an excellent resource for students as many have their own firms or have connections in the industry. For architecture students, the stakes are even higher to impress professors. 

In fact, one architecture student refused to have his comments about the demanding workload included in this article for fear that his feedback would be negatively received by his future employers. 

Unfortunately, in their effort to challenge their students for greater success, architecture professors seem to be ignoring the deteriorating mental health of their students. 

Architecture students express deep respect for their professors and a love of the subject. However, the pressure that is placed on these students and the quality of work that they are expected to produce results in dangerous habits and resentment. 

“The harsh critiques, deadlines, and disregard for our lives outside the tents consequently squashes most of the passion I feel for architecture,” Luster said.

The sad reality of the situation is that architecture students subject themselves to acute anxiety and unhealthy habits because they are extremely passionate about the program and grateful for the opportunity to learn from renowned professors. 

“It can be a very unhealthy experience that is both mentally and physically draining. But it is one that we subject ourselves to nonetheless, because we are passionate about architecture,” Isget said. But there must be another way for students to complete their assignments without fostering such an intense and unforgiving work culture.

The mission statement of the architecture school reads, “The Tulane School of Architecture generates and applies knowledge that addresses urgent challenges of humankind.” Yet, they can not seem to address the urgent challenges that threaten from within. A system that can not acknowledge its own shortcomings will inevitably collapse.