Students are scrambling to keep up with school during the pandemic while administrators seem distant, Kathleen Mah writes

This article was written by freelance contributor Kathleen Mah

Dear University of Lethbridge administration,

Your students are suffering. 

There is one feeling that is common among many students. We feel that the University of Lethbridge is simply not doing enough to support their students during the pandemic. Emails asking if we’re okay don’t mean much if you aren’t offering real supports. Inconsistent workloads across classes make it hard to keep a handle on things. 

Receiving mass emails every month or so offering ‘support’ has numbed us to the very notion of what support means. Support has become a catch-all term but is not specific enough to be of any real help. What does support look like? Where does it come from? Is it equally accessible to all students? 

Looking at University communications, it feels like they think that students are all equally confused and equally at risk. But that simply is not the case. There are different dimensions of inequalities that the University needs to address to make sure all of its students have the resources they need. Not everyone is living in a safe enough place to stay home. Not everyone has an income that will always pay the bills. Not everyone can afford a good internet connection—or internet at all.

Our student body is diverse so our response and supports need to be as well.

The classroom experience has become extremely variable; some professors are piling on work, others are cutting back, and some are not making any accommodations for being online. There is no standard, and it is becoming hard for students to continually adapt to each class.

Part of university is instructors having autonomy in how they teach their courses. However, not monitoring what instructors are doing in their classrooms means students are even more stressed in a time when we need some sort of stability to survive. Apart from the end of semester online evaluations, students aren’t being asked if they are being treated fairly by their instructors.

This problem extends to residence. Tess McNaughton, a Residence Assistant, is disappointed by the way the University is handling things. They said that the University has seemed to “put students on the back burner.” 

This year, residence students don’t have access to a meal plan, which used to be mandatory for first-year residence students. These students do not all have equal access to transportation that they can use to get groceries, and the University isn’t within walking distance of a grocery store. McNaughton describes being on campus right now as difficult and contradictory. She said that the safety regulations the University lays out do not match up with that of the Alberta government. This is creating additional confusion and challenges for students.

To be clear, I realize that the University is attempting to come up with solutions on the fly. I acknowledge the hard work of residence and campus cleaning staff. I appreciate the hard work of people in trying to get us through the pandemic safely. But this is where the problem lies.

The University’s actions are so focused on getting through the pandemic that we are not emphasizing the importance of living during the pandemic. Every email I receive is something along the lines of “Don’t worry we will be back to normal one day.” But what about today? ‘One day’ is far off and seems intangible. It does not change the very real needs of students today.

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