The measures taken against the spread of COVID-19 have ensured Spring 2020 will be unlike any other semester — not just for SIUE, but for most schools in the U.S.
While students normally have a general idea of what they’re getting into based on the course descriptions and syllabi, the massive shifts in our surroundings have left many of us scrambling to understand what is now expected of us. As students, we ask that instructors be as understanding and accommodating as possible while this continues.
Within the past few weeks, many students have been forced to leave their on-campus housing, dining options that accept their meal plans have closed, student workers have been unable to return to their jobs, extra-curricular activities have been cancelled, many resources have been made unavailable and nearly all ongoing courses have been made online-only — and that’s just on campus. It would be difficult to overstate the impact this has had on college life as we knew it.
Amid the confusion, there has been no word from the university about changes to refund policy, so as students, we still need to do our best to keep up with the classes we have invested in, even if we wouldn’t have signed up for the same courses online. However, some students will have an easier time doing this than others.
Instructors who have recently switched curriculums made for face-to-face courses to an online format on short notice have a lot on their plates as well. Many of them have not been trained to teach online courses and are not used to the software they’re expected to use. It can become very difficult for them to tell the difference between students who are overwhelmed and those who are trying to blow off classes entirely. However, they need to be mindful of the many difficulties students are facing right now, and how this may impact their performances. Since this change impacts every student, we ask instructors to be understanding of every student, and to put less emphasis on meeting deadlines and more on helping students get to a place where they have the resources to get assignments done in the first place.
According to an email sent on March 14 by administration, deadlines for on-campus courses were to be postponed following the move to online environments while the instructors adapted their materials.
“They will use March 16-22 to accomplish this goal. For these courses, assignments and due dates that were originally scheduled for next week will be rescheduled,” the email said.
Despite this, many instructors have maintained their original schedules of assignments, forcing students to meet established deadlines regardless. The conflicting messages from figures of authority are sure to have led to confusion among students, and it is unfair to make their grades suffer as a result of miscommunications among faculty.
For students who need special accommodations, the ACCESS office is now available online, and we encourage you to register if you qualify. However, instructors always have a level of discretion over the grades students receive. We want to remind them they aren’t just teaching students under normal circumstances, but students who are confused, isolated and doing their best to work within a framework they could not have anticipated. Many of us are wondering how we will afford rent, whether basic utilities will be available to us, when we will get to see our friends and loved ones and whether we are going to get very sick in the near future — we have a lot more on us now than we have under normal circumstances, so it's only reasonable for the expectations normally put on us change as well.
Everyone in our community is under a lot of stress, but students do not have the same power to alleviate this stress for others that teachers have. By giving students some extra leeway right now, instructors can provide a certain degree of relief in a time when many are feeling overwhelmed.