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Isabel’s Fight List: Professors Who Are Asking Me To Do Actual Work Right Now

Editor in Chief Isabel Sepúlveda can’t actually fight people while responsibly socially distancing, so this will have to do.

It feels a little bit like the world is ending. It’s not, as far as we can tell; the world has lived through worse and made it through to the other side. But this crisis has quite literally uprooted every single Columbia student and staff member. Those who weren’t able to leave campus are stuck in the epicenter of the American coronavirus crisis, either trying to attend/teach classes or provide absolutely vital services to those who remain in Morningside Heights. Students are struggling with food insecurity, homelessness, at-risk or ill family members, mental health issues exacerbated by the crisis and the social distancing measures needed to combat it. 3.3 million people filed for unemployment in recent days, and with the threat of a recession looming large and no end to the pandemic in sight, that number is only expected to rise. Those of us lucky enough to have a home to return to, a steady paycheck, and food on the table are still grieving losses on a personal and global scale.

And somehow, in the middle of all of this, my professors expect me to sit down and complete a worksheet on Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik?

To all the professors out there still proctoring midterms, forcing students into mandatory synchronous lectures, giving people weekly assignments to submit with their readings, please, please, stop.

I understand where you’re coming from, I truly do. We’re paying Columbia as an institution for quality education and that’s a promise they have to live up to. Some students welcome the imposition of structure when time has otherwise has become an unstructured disaster. Some professors are probably afraid that with the implementation of a universal pass/fail system this semester, their students will take that as an excuse to slack off—and some of them definitely will.

But to that I say, let them.

A different professor told our class that everyone who turned in our midterm this semester would pass. All our readings are optional and we’re meeting synchronously, with lectures recorded to anyone who can’t make it. The perfect recipe for people to completely check out for these last couple weeks. But pretty much everyone showed up to class. Most of us even kept our cameras on.

Now, who knows if that will continue throughout the semester. Call me an optimist, but I think it will. It’s been almost impossible to make myself care about art history or rock and roll or whatever novel I’m supposed to be reading, but having a few hours of my day devoted to hearing about something other than flattening curves, testing shortages, ventilator manufacturing, and other COVID-19 news has been a solace in a time where solaces are far and few between. Seeing the faces of people not in my immediate family has been even better. Forcing myself to care about academics in the time of a pandemic enough to haul myself to a Zoom session is about all I’m capable of right now. And I’m lucky enough to have a loving, supportive family with good internet access and little fear of people losing their jobs or getting hours cut. And I’m in EST, for God’s sake!

I’m sure you, the professor that is reading this, is similarly struggling with your own fears and anxieties. I’m not saying you have to cancel everything, but please just cut us some slack. When it feels like the world is falling apart a little bit more every day, I’m just not going to be able to fill out that Music Hum worksheet and that’s something we’re both gonna have to accept.

Could I beat them in a fight? Now isn’t the time for fighting, but rather for empathy. This is not to say I think I would lose (the consensus is unclear but I think I’d have tons of other frustrated college students on my side), but rather that I am choosing to abstain. My professors should consider doing the same with their assignments. We’re all in this together.

Self-defense tip: Stand at least six feet apart from one another and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds frequently. Don’t hoard supplies—especially medical supplies like masks that doctors and nurses desperately need. Again, we’re all in this together.

Image via Pexels

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