The pandemic has redefined every facet of our lives and has hit the world of higher education in a unique way. Colleges and universities all over America were given the task of deciding the fate of their students, and in some cases, had to do so without the guidance of their local state or city governments.
While it is impossible for some academic programs to move online, the majority of academic programs should be moved to a remote format for the safety of students. Colleges’ first priority should be human lives, not losing money.
CAMPUSES SHOULD NOT HAVE REOPENED
As of Sept. 3, there were at least 51,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 60 deaths from over 1,000 colleges nationwide, according to The New York Times. Since the beginning of the pandemic, The Times calculated 1,100 confirmed cases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 256 at the University of Southern California, 146 cases at the University of California, Berkeley, 126 at the University of California, Los Angeles, one at Holy Names University and two confirmed cases at Biola.
The data tells us one thing: schools should not have let students back on campus. With hundreds of students packed into dormitories, cafeterias, parties and classrooms, community spread was inevitable. In one particular case in North Carolina, some students were evacuated from their campus just a week after they had arrived, forcing them to find ways back home or find new living accommodations. Nationwide, a lot of trouble could have been avoided if universities stayed closed.
KEEP US SAFE
Local governments should have taken the lead in keeping college students safe. The decision to bring students back to school should never have fallen on colleges, let alone individual students. Governments failed to protect students when college reopening policies were delayed, leaving many to fend for themselves. This lack of action has also endangered college faculty, as professors tend to be older and therefore at higher risk for coronavirus complications.
Young adults should not be the only ones shouldering the responsibility of our nation’s safety. Students have been put in unfair positions and have become the scapegoat for governments’ inaction. That is not an excuse for students to break the rules, but it does put their actions in perspective.
Colleges should have predicted the way their students would respond to coronavirus safety rules. Some, like Tulane University in New Orleans, were optimistic about how their semester would begin. That optimism cost Tulane multiple virus cases and bad press. Colleges have doled out heavy disciplinary action for breaking rules, like being suspended without a tuition refund. It is unfair to punish students like this when they should have never been in the position to break rules in the first place.
INVEST IN REMOTE LEARNING
Remote learning is not ideal, nor is it affordable for every college. Students face numerous challenges as well, including socioeconomic burdens, problematic home environments and learning style differences and disabilities. Switching the college experience to online-only formats is, for some, completely unrealistic. Because of this, local governments should be equipping their student citizens with the tools they need to succeed. The investment in technology will be worth it and resisting will only prove more painful.
Many schools, including Biola, made the wise but complicated decision to pursue distance learning. Biola is doing everything in its power to make this experience as smooth for students and faculty as possible by investing in new technology, discounting tuition and awarding every full-time student with a COVID-19 Tuition Relief Grant.
Embracing new conditions is never effortless, but it is necessary if we want to defeat this virus. College students, especially international students, have experienced many frustrating obstacles throughout the course of this pandemic. However, as this crisis drones on, it is imperative that we protect one another, because at the end of this storm, each other is all we will have.