Editorial: Students need the support of the administration during another virtual semester
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University adjusted spring 2021 semester calendar for public health purposes. To limit the amount of travel to and from campus, the start date of the semester was delayed to Feb. 1, and the usual two week-long breaks were reduced to five “no university exercise” days distributed throughout the semester. Although it makes sense to modify the schedule so that the safety of the campus will not be compromised by frequent traveling, the loss of the week-long breaks adds additional stress to students who are already dealing with hardships related to the pandemic. This board urges professors to consider these factors and adjust their courses accordingly, and we urge the administration to create a specific feedback system and enact requested changes if necessary.
Although the reduction of week-long breaks might be the best way to maintain a safe campus, it will not serve the best interest of students if our courses aren’t adjusted to the semester’s changes. In the past, the two week-long breaks not only served as opportunities for students to rest and spend time with friends and family, but they also allowed students time to work on their upcoming midterms and finals. Now that the long breaks no longer exist, instructors should adjust their syllabi to match the work capacity of students — even if those changes need to be made mid-semester, as students and professors alike realize the impact of not having the typical week-long breaks this year.
The Brandeis community has been working hard to ensure a year of quality education despite all the difficulties, but we need the help of the administration to ensure this can continue. Former Provost Lisa Lynch sent out three feedback surveys throughout last semester. This board encourages Provost Carol Fierke to maintain this practice and improve upon it. The survey should contain a mix of both open-ended and multiple choice or rating scale questions that address specific academic practices, such as the guidelines for class meetings, a reasonable workload, adjusted syllabi and accommodations for off-campus and remote students. Students should also be able, and encouraged, to name professors who refuse to make adjustments — such as including a 10-minute break in every class — after being reminded to do so. Most importantly, the administration should require professors to circulate the survey during class, and academic administrators should take concrete actions when an issue is reported by a student. Alternatively, the University could have an anonymous survey open all semester long where students can submit their feedback.
Effective education is not about the quantity of material assigned to the students, but the quality of it. This board applauds the professors who have adjusted their classes based on the changes to the academic calendar, and encourages the rest to do the same. This board also urges the administration to actively collect feedback from students in regard to their academic experience during the pandemic, and take action based on student concerns to ensure a productive semester for everyone.