This week has been a roller coaster in higher education.
The University released its final decision on the fall semester, announcing a disappointing but needed move to hold classes online. GW did the right thing to protect students’ health, but officials still need to consider ways to ease the financial and social burden placed on students by enrolling them online.
Here’s the best and worst of this week’s headlines:
The University did its best, in good faith, to keep campus open while preserving the health and safety of its students. Administrators held out until the last possible second to cancel in-person campus life and appear to have made every effort to avoid having to make that call – including University President Thomas LeBlanc setting up a meeting with Mayor Muriel Bowser. With D.C. establishing a two-week quarantine on entrants from 27 states, it became impossible to justify bringing students back to campus from all around the country.
GW deserves credit for placing the health of students as its first priority. The coronavirus poses more of a risk to young people than many first thought, and it is clear that an outbreak on campus could have had tragic consequences.
The decision does not mean that we as students lack the right to be angry about the situation we have found ourselves in – each and every one of us has validity in feeling distraught. It’s a crisis we hopefully will never need to experience again.
There’s no two ways about it – this semester is going to be difficult. Students are losing out on some of the most irreplaceable parts of their college experiences. Hanging out with friends, meeting new people through student organizations and the mere feeling of independence are going to be sorely missed. Alongside the stressors of living at home, students have the deck stacked against them.
The University’s current plan has some shortcomings that may serve to exacerbate these stressors. Keeping the six-semester residency requirement could shoehorn students into GW housing against their will, which would be unfair. While tuition has been cut by 10 percent for online courses, GW should explore reducing it more to bring the price in line with the quality of instruction. And more steps beyond limited housing should be taken to assist students whose home lives are unconducive to learning effectively.
GW has shown good faith so far in responding to the pandemic in students’ best interest. Students, for their part, have been unabashed in their advocacy for what they need in this stressful time – which is also a plus. There is no panacea that will make this semester as good as it would have been without the pandemic, nor is there anything that allows students to recoup missed college experiences, but improving the fall’s current framework will ease the burden.
Andrew Sugrue, a rising junior majoring in political communication, is the contributing opinions editor.