Stressed-out students request class withdrawals

John Manalang

In the pursuit of academic excellence, stress can be a student’s most challenging obstacle. Grades and social lives often suffer. Even more alarming is the fact that unmanaged stress can greatly diminish a student’s overall quality of life.

Executive Order Number 792, issued by California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed on Nov. 12, 2001, allows students to withdraw from their classes past the ususal drop date.

“Students can only withdraw for serious and compelling reasons,” Maureen Rubin, Director of Undergraduate Studies, said. According to Rubin, all dropped and added classes after the third week of the census date are initiated by a fifth week plus petition. Forms to begin the process can be found in the “quick links” section of CSUN’s Web site, under “student forms,” and there are separate forms for undergraduate and graduate students.

“We would not be doing our duty if we just signed forms,” she said.

To begin the withdrawal process for undergraduate students (graduate students have a separate process), petitions are signed by the class professor to be reviewed by administrators, specialists, and the chair of the department. Then the petition is forwarded to the Associate Dean’s office for further investigation. The petition must have acceptable documentation, such as original letters from health professionals on letterhead. The reasons for withdrawal listed on the petition may range from physical disabilities to emotional situations. Rubin said that Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, director of the Klotz Student Health Center, is sometimes consulted for her professional opinion.

“We can’t generalize, stress is a part of life,” Rubin said. “I really do take the petitions as a cry for help, it’s the students telling you they have a (problem).”

Rubin said certain majors did not have a significant number of drop rates. “It was across the board, we were very surprised,” she said.

Dr. Nagi El Naga, department chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, suggested stress is caused by the overwhelming work students must accomplish.

“(A) main reason for stress is (students) always overload themselves with work,” El Naga said. The university sets a limit on the number of units a student can take. “We can give them permission to exceed the average units taken depending on the circumstances,” El Naga said. Policies are made aware to students who choose to drop. Rubin said students have the responsibility to explore their options.

Dr. Mark Stevens, Director of Counseling Services, said there is plenty of free and confidential help through the office. They offer individual counseling, relaxation groups and psychiatrists.

“We conduct a thorough assessment of the stress through a biological, psychological and social perspective,” Stevens said. Through assessment, counselors evaluate the physical, mental and social stability of the student. Students often relate confusion and a lack of energy as a catalyst to stress. “The student has to identify the stress before it becomes toxic,” Stevens said.

The University Helpline, a non-profit organization, dedicates its listeners to those who are in need. “We want our callers to take time for themselves and not to experience too much pressure,” said Training Director Deni Stewart. More than 100 listeners help callers cope with their stress and problems.

Planning ahead and basic study skills early on in the semester are necessary procedures to prevent stress. Rubin said students should come up with their own self-help mechanism in order to establish a healthy state of mind, and suggested that one way to reduce stress is by reducing one’s course load. Doing so, even by just one class, can be beneficial in the long run. Conducting study groups is a highly recommended way to form companionship with fellow students.

Students should also consider their academic career as training for their future professions. “We do have to teach students the behavior that will be required when they graduate,” Rubin said.