As of April 21, the College reported a total of 191 active Covid-19 cases across campus. In response to this surge, the College reinstated masking protocols in public spaces on campus. Many faculty members also addressed the sudden increase in cases by rearranging their syllabi and holding hybrid classes to support student health and learning.
Associate Professor of History Meghan Roberts and Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies Rachel Sturman both instruct courses in which one-third to one-half of students were absent in the past week. To facilitate a safe and fair classroom environment, Roberts and Sturman are working individually with students to reschedule deadlines and revise upcoming assignments. Roberts even made one assignment in each of her classes optional.
“I just have so many sick students that I couldn’t in good conscience force them to do something,” Roberts said.
Roberts and Sturman are among many professors who utilized Zoom in the past week to accommodate students who could not join class in person. They conveyed the difficulties doing so for both the instructor and students..
“I feel like I’m at a real tipping point,” Roberts said. “How much Zoom-hybrid can you implement and still have it be a good experience for everybody?”
Sturman echoed this sentiment.
“It’s hard to manage part of the students being on Zoom and the rest in the classroom,” Sturman said. “It’s very hard to move back and forth.”
Regarding the upheaval in College mask policies preceding the outbreak, both professors agree that, to an extent, this recent surge was avoidable.
“If you do the math, we were five or six days [out] from making masks totally optional and three days [out] from a really huge indoor concert,” Roberts said. “I think that kind of speaks for itself.”
Other professors have also made unforeseen adjustments to their curriculum due to an increase in student absences. Professor of Art Michael Kolster provides Zoom as an option for isolating students when possible, although virtual platforms often prove ineffective for his hands-on visual arts courses.
“I tell students that get sick that they should focus on their recovery and then look to complete work that they may have missed,” Kolster wrote in an email to the Orient. “There is much to be learned with each assignment, so I try to find ways for students to have the full experience of the class.”
At the beginning of last week, Assistant Professor of Education Alison Riley Miller conducted an anonymous survey in both of her courses to gauge students’ comfort levels regarding in-person class. After allowing students to attend class either online or in-person, she found that approximately half of students use Zoom.
“It felt like an easy thing for me to do, to just check in with students and find where everyone’s comfort level is,” Miller said. “I think a lot of professors have been having some form of that conversation as well.”
Kolster agrees with the sentiment of strong communication between professors and students.
“I hope to make it clear to students that keeping lines of communication open is essential—to let me know how they are doing and when they think they can rejoin class, and to try to help them get caught up with material they may have missed once they have recovered,” Kolster wrote.
Despite the recent surge in cases, Miller remains optimistic about the future.
“I think that as much as we all took a step back with this latest outbreak, I still feel confident that we’re doing all the right things,” Miller said. “We’ll rise back to the top and overcome this latest challenge.”
Reuben Schafir contributed to this report.