Op-Ed: Professors Need to Communicate Fair Policy For Isolated Students

By Rohail Spear | | Arts and Leisure Editor

Almost every friend of mine on campus has displayed flu-like symptoms at some point this semester, yet every single one of them has refused to visit the Student Wellness Center (SWC) to get tested. I don’t blame them. In fact, I was sick a few weeks ago and I went out of my way to avoid visiting the SWC for fear of getting tested. This is not because we enjoy spreading possible COVID-19 around campus, but because we are afraid of what will happen to our academic performance if we are isolated. 

Professors are not required to hold Zoom classes for isolated students, which leads to our valid fear of how we will keep up with the course material. In fact, the lack of any information that the College and individual professors provide upfront when it comes to their policies for teaching isolated students is terrifying: will we be completely cut off from the course for ten days?

No matter how valid those fears are, the fear is there and it is completely valid. It was up to me to ask each of my four professors about their policy in terms of helping isolated students learn and participate in their course. Fortunately, I can say that every one seemed genuinely willing to help their students in whatever way they could. Two said that they would Zoom-in isolated students to the class while the other two promised to meet individually with their students to ensure that they understood the course material. All four seemed to be very flexible in terms of catering to individual students’ needs – some students may need or want more assistance than others, and all of my professors recognized that. 

If you are a student and you feel comfortable doing so, you should ask your professors about their policies (especially for those who have in-person labs) because you may be concerned about learning the course material and achieving the grade you want while being sick and isolated. In my case, I found that my professors were far more flexible than I imagined and their responses virtually completely alleviated my fear of not being able to keep up with the material if isolated. If you learn of their policy and believe that it does not work for you, you should talk to them about your concerns until the both of you reach a compromise that does work for you. You are the one paying for this education, so you deserve to make your professors bend to meet your needs in whatever way best suits you. 

To professors: I urge you to make your policies clear upfront. Lockdown and isolating in general has left a lot of us with a reasonable amount of social anxiety, and for whatever reason your students may not feel comfortable going up and asking you. Besides, it is far more efficient to notify the entire class at once. Not only would a transparent approach relieve your students’ stress about being isolated, but it would stop discouraging students from getting tested. If students knew how flexible your policy was, they would be far more willing to be isolated. If your policy is not very flexible, I urge you to make it so. It is unfair for isolated students if they are disadvantaged when it comes to learning; punishing students for getting tested is a quick and easy way to discourage other students from getting tested, which is an even quicker way to create an outbreak. 

Being clear about how students will continue to learn if isolated is one way in which we can prevent COVID-19 from spreading around campus. It will give students the confidence to get tested if showing symptoms, which helps with contact tracing and limiting the spread of the virus in general. I urge concerned students to ask their professors about their policies if they do not make them clear, but ultimately I believe that it is up to our professors to create and communicate a flexible, fair policy that works for all students. 

Sophomore Rohail Spear is the Arts and Leisure Editor. His email is rspear@fandm.edu.

print

Leave a Reply