In person, out of touch

Areebah Bharmal, Contributing Writer

While the Texas government, specifically Gov. Greg Abbott, may have removed all COVID-19 related precautions and seems to be actively working to prevent public organizations from mandating masks and vaccines, that does not change the fact that we are still in a pandemic. With different variants of the coronavirus being detected and spreading around the world, we can’t pretend that everything is business as usual, even as we attempt to return to some semblance of normal university operations. As in-person classes begin, professors should keep in mind that we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and should be more lenient and understanding with students as we return to the classroom.

The shift back to in-person classes will be a change not just for students, but for professors as well. I personally have had professors express how it may take them some time to adjust to the switch after a year and a half online, or how they are keeping Zoom as an option in case it becomes necessary. If professors are allowed time to readjust and the opportunity to be absent if COVID-19 related issues arise, then students should be given these accommodations as well. Students are forced to adapt to changes the professors may need to make, and students deserve the same respect. It is unreasonable to expect students to attend classes and act as if everything is normal when many may still be dealing with the effects of the pandemic, and professors should be accommodating accordingly. 

UTSA has certain testing guidelines in place, and depending on vaccination status and exposure to someone with COVID, those guidelines include quarantining. However, this is contradictory to mandatory attendance requirements many professors have in place. The university and staff need to be on the same page in terms of responding to the pandemic if any precautions being taken are going to be effective. Attendance requirements should be more lenient this year considering a pandemic is not something students can just avoid or work through. Professors should also be willing to work with students if they are forced to be absent. If professors do not work with students on this, many may come to class despite having been exposed or not feeling well and that unnecessarily puts others at risk. We cannot risk people’s lives just because we are back to in-person classes and the governor is living in an imaginary fantasy where COVID-19 no longer exists. Just because Abbott is no longer taking precautions to protect his constituents doesn’t mean we have to act like we are no longer in a pandemic. However, in order to take necessary testing and quarantining precautions, professors need to not only be understanding, but also willing to adapt with their students.

March 2020 was a trying time for everyone. We all had to adapt to certain changes, and some were faced with losing their jobs or taking care of sick family members. While many of these problems may have since been resolved, some may still be dealing with the repercussions of these issues. And for those who are not, the current conditions of the pandemic present its own problems. Staff and students alike have family members who may not be able to receive the vaccine or who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19. Some students may have to take care of sick family members, and many professors may as well. If we are accommodating to professors who need time away due to these concerns, we owe students the same accommodations. 

When we first switched to online learning, it was an adjustment that took time to get used to. Many professors and teachers had trouble with the new technology, as did students. As we transitioned then, students helped when professors and teachers had trouble with the new format. We understood that the transition came with its challenges, and there is no reason that this transition should be any different. 

Everyone was forced to adapt a year and a half ago and that should continue now. A lot of things are just as uncertain as they were then, and students and staff alike need to remain adaptable as conditions continue to change. UTSA prides itself on being a community of Roadrunners, now it is time to act like it.