We are entering a weird, complicated time at the university: the two-year marker since first being sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with caseloads decreasing nationally after hospitalizations hit an all-time high in January.
This circumstance leaves students and professors to navigate an uncertain space, trying to transition life at the university back to normal, while also still taking the proper precautions to protect immunocompromised people on campus.
While the university needs to maintain COVID-19 safety measures in place, we believe that a robust educational experience at the university is still needlessly being hindered by the pandemic.
Many students signed up this semester for in-person classes. Though online classes are more convenient, many students prefer to have the motivation of in-person classes. Being in person makes them get themselves out of bed, gives them the opportunity to interact with professors and classmates and avoids the inherent distractions — like noisy roommates and watching Tiktok while attending class — of taking a Zoom class from the dormitories.
However, in the experience of our editorial board, several professors at the university have taken the liberties of shifting in-person classes to hybrid or fully virtual classes, often for what seem to be matters of convenience.
We understand that professors may have legitimate concerns about their own health and the health of their students, and for those reasons may shift the class to a hybrid or virtual format. However, professors should not shift classes online for matters of their own convenience when students have intentionally signed up for an in-person class.
We acknowledge the benefits of hybrid and virtual classes, especially for students who have practical concerns in terms of getting to campus or who have COVID-19 related concerns.
All students should have the ability to choose a learning environment that best suits their needs, whether that is virtual or in-person. What we ask of university faculty is that they honor students’ choices. Just as students who sign up for a virtual class should not have to go in person, students who sign up for an in-person class should not have to show up virtually unless necessary.
For many of us, we have reached our max of Zoom calls for a lifetime. The first week of classes entirely on Zoom was exhausting, as there was often little flexibility in terms of students turning their cameras on or off and diminished opportunities to get to know professors personally.
Additionally, virtual learning often causes fatigue, social isolation and increased anxiety and stress for students. Though faculty may feel that they are not causing these problems by transitioning classes to a hybrid format, they cannot speak to the experiences of individual students with the pandemic and distance learning.
Over the past two years, students have had little control over their college experiences, trapped in their dorms or apartments for hours on end with their eyes glued to computer screens. With booster shots under our belt and a greater knowledge of how to live during a pandemic, it is time for students to take agency back in terms of their learning.
The university needs to honor our agency in choosing how we best learn, or else it is not setting us up for success.
The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Tara Lennon, development officer. She may be reached at email@example.com.