Nation & World

'Cry Closet' for stressed students gets decried, college says it's 'work of art'

A fine arts student at the University of Utah created a "cry closet" for students to use during finals week and she hasn't heard the end of it.
A fine arts student at the University of Utah created a "cry closet" for students to use during finals week and she hasn't heard the end of it. Twitter/@BarstoolBigCat

You know how it is. Sometimes crying your eyes out in the shower or screaming into your pillow just won't cut it.

It would be so nice to have a quiet, private, soundproof place to bawl your eyes out. Especially for you college students out there during finals week.

Nemo Miller, a senior in fine arts at the University of Utah, came up with a solution: The cry closet.

It's official artsy name is "Safe Place for Stressed Out Students Otherwise Known as The Cry Closet."

And boy, is it making people cry out.

Miller installed the free-standing closet in the school's library on Sunday, where it will remain until the end of finals on May 2, school spokeswoman Jana Cunningham told Inside Higher Ed.

"You can cry, scream ... decompress and hopefully you come out feeling a little better in this crazy week of finals," Cunningham said.

No school money was spent on the closet. Miller designed and built it, with help from her dad and uncle, as part of an assignment for a woodshop class where students created projects focused on social intervention.

“I am providing a space for students who are studying during finals week to go take a five- to ten-minute break in a nice cushy … soft environment away from all the harsh lights of the library,” Miller told The Daily Utah Chronicle student newspaper.

She padded the closet walls with soft fabric, piled stuffed animals on the floor and installed soft, adjustable lighting.

Five posted rules include knock before entering, only one person in the closet at a time and don't spend more than 10 minutes in there.

“Growing up, my safe space in my house was the bathroom so it was like, providing an alternate space to have feelings away from the rest of the house,” Miller told the Chronicle. “I hope students actually use it ... and are just given that space to decompress amid the craziness of finals week."

Who knew a wooden box would raise a stink?

Some people think the closet's funny.

"It's all fun and games until somebody has a complete meltdown because the Cry Closet is already occupied," tweeted one.

Actor/comedian David Alan Grier tweeted that he needs one in his office.

Joke's on who now?

But, undies in a twist, critics whipped out the word "snowflake" faster than others could say "lighten up."

"Sure, the cry closet is basically an art installation, with the University of Utah acknowledging that the whole thing is pretty tongue-in-cheek to begin with, but it's still found its share of people whining about weak-ass millennials and how they need to 'toughen up,'" notes Vice.

One person was so ticked-off about the closet on Twitter that the school had to talk them down from the ledge, tweeting: "We will cease and desist all attempts at humor across campus."

Another "donating alumnus" demanded to know whether the closet was an "actual, academically approved project that someone got educational credit for."

The university tweeted back, explaining that the closet is "a work of art meant to provoke feeling, thought & conversation, which the artist has apparently done. So we hope she received academic credit for it. She sure deserves it. And yes it was approved to go up."

You'd think Miller would be locked in the closet, hiding by now. But it sounds like she's enjoying the attention.

Reportedly busy studying for finals this week, she gave a statement to Inside Higher Ed on Wednesday.

"I am interested in humanity and the inherent complexities of the human condition," she wrote. "In my work, I reflect on my experiences and explore what it means to be human. One aspect of humanity that I am currently exploring is connections and missed connections through communication.

"It’s been interesting to watch the response to this piece about human emotions, and I’m proud to see the power of art in action.”

She's actually not the first person to turn a closet into a sob station.

Fans of the TV show, "Scrubs," know this. "Elliot, have you been in the supply closet crying?"

"But let's be real, here: Someday — maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow — you might find yourself in a public space with that familiar lump in your throat and an imminent flood of tears, and say, 'Damn, wish I had a small box to go sob inside for ten minutes or whatever,'" wrote Vice.

"The world is currently full of things to cry about, so maybe we could use a few more of these things."

Good mental health isn’t the absence of mental health struggles. Physical and emotional stress can trigger chemical changes in the brain. Coping skills help reduce stress and promote good mental health.

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