ALESTLE VIEW: Empathy from professors should be the standard

Students come to university because they want to learn, but sometimes tragic life events happen. A lack of empathy from professors can often feel like a nail in their coffin. 


University is a time meant to challenge students, giving them the opportunities and spaces to grow. But for many students, the academic pressure to be continuously performing can feel suffocating. For students who have lost loved ones, having to deal with grief along with school work can even feel terrifying. Other students who are dealing with complications due to COVID-19 or other illnesses worry about how their professors are going to react. Many professors are kind and accommodating to these situations, others not so much. 


We have all heard the horror stories of students being asked to take a photo at a grandparent's funeral, or explain in detail what their family emergency is. Those are the cases when we ask the professors to extend empathy. 


We aren’t asking for total leniency or excuses not to come to class. We want to do our work. We are all in university to educate ourselves and earn a degree. 


What we are asking for is more empathy in the academic world. We don’t want total exemption from the rules, just that faculty extends common courtesy to their students. 


Extending deadlines for students facing family emergencies is one solution, whether that is implementing a seven-day late policy that can be used all in one week or spread out over the semester, or extending the deadline for a single student going through a difficult time. 


For students who are facing difficulty due to COVID-19 or other illness, allowing leniency in attendance policies is a simple way to show empathy.


Some professors worry that students will make up family emergencies to get out of work. It’s understandable, but mostly baseless. If a student is going to go the lengths to make up a family emergency, that student is probably already struggling and is looking for a way to get a break from what often feels like an overwhelming amount of responsibility. 


All we are asking for is a bit more understanding from our professors. We understand that our professors will also have personal hardships, so we strive to extend grace to them as well. All we ask is that our professors extend the same grace to their students. The ability to thrive at university comes from wonderful faculty and how they treat their students. SIUE is filled with wonderful, kind and empathic professors, but it is often the harsh ones who leave the greatest impact. An empathic professor who extends kindness and grace during a student's hard time will allow students to take their time to deal with life before coming back to school, ready to learn again. 

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