This past semester has been extremely difficult for college students. Online classes seem to have made it so assignments are doubled, classes meet more often, less or nothing is communicated between students and professors at all. After ranting back and forth with other students, I noticed a common theme. Lack of motivation, inspiration and faith in education. It seems professors while scheduling five quizzes and two exams every week, have forgotten that there is still a global pandemic going on greatly affecting people’s lives. Some people have to work two jobs because their parents were laid off. Most people’s mental health has never been worse.
People our age have never been so afraid or unsure of the future in their lives and yet are being told that it is important for them to learn trigonometry right now. I have never heard so many hard-working students say that they wanted to drop out of college after never considering that before. And that, obviously, is not directly a professor’s fault as much as it is online school, COVID-19 and the 2020 election.
This isn’t to say that all professors are bad or being unfair—there are so many working so hard through their own stress to accommodate students. However, there are a lot of things we wish we could say to certain professors right now, so I asked my social media followers to tell me one thing they wish they could say to those less empathetic professors right now, and I got a lot of responses. This letter includes a first paragraph composed entirely of quotes given to me from around 15 college students currently enrolled this semester.
“Why do you insist on making us do more work than we have normally? I have a job. Please cut us some more slack; we’re in a pandemic. I’m already on academic probation— please give me an extension because we’re in a global pandemic. Chill out with the workload; I’m dying! I’m not paying this much money to be my own teacher. Leave me alone! Bro, grade my assignments. Lighten the load! Chill with in-person classes. Give us the option to be in person or online. Please go easy on me, sir; I am disintegrating as we speak. I am experiencing the worst lows of my life; please be more understanding. I’m too busy worrying about the life of my family members for you to give me 10 more assignments than usual.
Why does online class all of a sudden mean we can be told to attend class on days we don’t have class. As an art student, I don’t think students can really think freely. I don’t think you’re giving us the chance to have dialogue or express issues that are relevant to our times. It seems to be all about the things that we have to get done, and that’s it, and while we do learn from that, it doesn’t invite challenge or open-minded discussion or thought. I wasn’t allowed to move my exam date after my grandfather passed away from Covid. We’re about to break into a civil war, and I have a 14-page paper due next week. I am so overwhelmed; I don’t know what to do. I want to drop out.”
“All we are looking for is understanding. We understand that you are stressed right now. We want mental health to be taken seriously. A student shouldn’t feel like making themselves feel less depressed or happy is only possible by not being in school right now. We need to normalize letting students miss assignments because they are feeling mentally unstable or unwell. We need to pick synchronous or asynchronous as a university. We need to pick all online as a university. It is not easy for us to maintain a schedule when two classes meet on zoom, three do it at your own pace, and one randomly is in person. The bottom line is we want to feel understood.
We don’t want to feel crazy for taking this pandemic or this election seriously. Don’t give us a zero out of 100 on a test because we turned it in five minutes late. It doesn’t reflect what we are learning; it only reflects a time schedule. We want to learn, not regurgitate from textbook assignments weekly as our replacement for a lecture. Give us a fun video project instead of that 100-word essay you used in order to make up for attendance grading. There is so much division in the world, so much fear and uncertainty. Let’s work together, so everyone is getting the education they deserve, and they are paying for. We are so confused about our purpose in college because we are learning how to copy and paste, not how to write. We are learning a curriculum, not a subject.”
A bunch of kids who never imagined having to be in college during something like this.