Updated: Nov 6
As the coronavirus pandemic increases in scale and severity, many corporations and private entities have revealed the true extent of their callousness. Particularly in the US and UK, we have seen employers make only nominal changes to the way things operate in the midst of one of the greatest pandemics we have seen in many decades and demand their employees figure out how to deal with an significantly increased physical, emotional and psychological and financial strain and maintain the same level of productivity as before or even increase it. In Europe, most governments have taken action to prevent such exploitation because it clearly violates workers’ rights. So, if it’s unethical for employers to do this? Why is it seemingly okay for universities?
Many universities, professors and tutors think that in the midst of a global pandemic it suffices to merely tweak their classes, course material and assignments to be taught and done digitally, as if the only problem that needs addressing is that students are unable to come to campus in person. When there is not a pandemic going on, universities generally have psychological provisions in place because they are continually reminded that the stress, workload and sometimes excessive expectations of tutors can come a severe cost. Cases of depression, suicidal tendencies, anxiety and burnouts have grown amongst students for years, but instead of actually attempting to make going to university a more pleasant experience by making the workloads more doable and foster more empathetic attitudes and expectations from professors and teachers, most universities have spent their time merely mitigating what could easily be prevented.
All of this is about to be exacerbated by the coronavirus and the way many universities have seemingly left it to the professors to make their courses fit the changed circumstances. Some of them will lighten the workload, some of them will simply switch to digital classes and expect everything to stay the same and some will even increase their workload by adding more online assignments. It is simply negligent and morally inexcusable for any university actively demand students go on as normal in the midst of a global pandemic.
Keeping the semester going as normal or extending it into the summer (as has been suggested by some) will simply punish the people who cannot keep up with the workload due to falling ill with Covid19 or having a family member fall ill with Covid19 or, as is the case with many more, simply not being able to cope with both the regular stress of university and the stress, fatigue and anxiety that comes with living in the middle of a global outbreak. Universities are supposed to be places of acquiring knowledge and wisdom. So, I am asking universities to show some wisdom and humanity and not demand that students go on as normal during one of the worst global health crises the modern world has ever seen. Either lighten your workload significantly or cancel your semester and let everyone pass. If you don’t you will suffer the consequences when this pandemic is over and it becomes clear how inhumane and irresponsible your demands have been for the many of your students.