By Emma Kessi, SFU Student
SFU’s return to in-person classes brings bustling hallways, packed lecture halls, and students reuniting face to face with peers. However, we cannot let the exuberance of classes starting again overshadow the dangers of the fourth wave of COVID-19. While the university’s safety plan includes mask mandates and ventilation, these efforts are not enough. We must give all students the option to watch lectures from home. Requiring professors record all courses would offer students the space to make their own decisions about their health and the safety of their community.
Many professors underestimate the importance of recording classes, claiming it will give students “an easy way out” and lead to a decrease in classroom attendance. Not only have studies proven this theory wrong, they actually show recorded lectures “[correlate] with higher grades.” This excuse also fails to acknowledge it is a public safety hazard to make attending lectures compulsory. If a student shows symptoms of, or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, they should not feel any pressure to come to class.
Additionally, at the time of writing, there are 6,068 active cases of COVID-19 in BC. These statistics paint a worrisome picture of possible outcomes. One student with COVID-19 endangers all surrounding students as studies found the virus can linger in the air for up to three hours and on surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for up to three days. Given that 88% of students commute to campus, a campus outbreak could turn into multiple city outbreaks in weeks.
On September 15, 2021, Tom Nault, registrar and executive director, student enrollment, sent out an email to all students detailing the ways in which excused absences would be handled. In it, Nault asks students to stay home if they are feeling unwell. He added “it helps to know your options,” should students need to stay home. Although these sentiments are perfectly agreeable, he then goes on to say, “If you think you might have to miss classes or cannot complete your coursework, your first step is to speak to your instructor about getting an academic concession.”
If a student wakes up the morning of an early lecture with COVID-19 symptoms, they should not have to gamble their class grade on the mercy of a teacher. In my experience, even if a student receives academic concession, many times the only accommodation made is an email containing that class’s powerpoint. A simple powerpoint does not give a sick student the same educational opportunity as a recorded lecture does. These requirements for academic concessions may have been accepted in years past, but tradition is no longer an excuse for inaccessibility.
Given that 71% of college students have felt increases in their stress and anxiety due to the pandemic, transitioning back to in-person classes is a hard switch for many. Having the option to watch recorded lectures at home will ease the transition and help with students’ well-being.
While we’re all eager to transition to normal lives, we must still remember we aren’t out of the woods quite yet. Continuing to use the technology that helped us get through the pandemic’s peak is a simple and effective way to ensure the safety of students, staff, and community on campus. SFU needs to make the proactive decision to mandate recording lectures to prevent any future outbreaks. I’d like to keep attending my classes in-person for the rest of my time here, but if we don’t act now, there’s a chance we would have to go back to online classes.
Editor’s note: The SFSS recently put out a statement to push for enhanced safety on campus, which includes demands related to teaching adjustments, mental and physical health, as well as public health.