Don’t take advantage of professors during the online semester

Students are undoubtedly facing a tough semester, and professors are trying to accommodate as much as possible. We should expect professors to be understanding of students’ needs or situations in the months ahead, but we should never grow to take advantage of their kindness.

A student in a class of 20 said she needed to miss a lecture earlier this month because she had tested positive for COVID-19. The professor was understanding and gave the student a pass on the assignment that was due that day. But later that day while I was scrolling through Snapchat, I saw that same student had instead gone on a brunch picnic with friends during the hour when class was held. I can’t say for sure that she lied to our professor, but it infuriated me. As a student who is working two part-time jobs in addition to taking classes, I need all the flexibility my professors can give me. When students scam their professors into sympathy, those who actually need extensions and compassion are at a major disadvantage.

“There are students who truly need help – don’t be the person to play a crackling noise on your computer to get out of answering a question. It shows a great deal of privilege and is genuinely rude to professors.”

Taking advantage of professors goes beyond something as significant as making up excuses to miss class. It can be something as small as not turning on your camera during class or pretending to have technical difficulties during class. There’s some disagreement about whether professors can require students to turn on their cameras, as some students might not be comfortable sharing the environment where they’re taking the class. Those students should be able to turn off their cameras and not be questioned if they let the professor know in advance. But in large part, a professor sitting in a class full of black, empty boxes is rather sad – the professor looks like they’re talking into the void. Most importantly, it can cause the professor to distrust a student who actually needs the accommodation. 

I have also seen countless posts on Instagram and TikTok where students demonstrate ways to fake technical difficulties by changing their user names to “reconnecting” or playing glitchy sounds to make it seem like their audio doesn’t work. Not only is this ridiculous given what we are all paying for our education, but it shows privilege in some students. Some of us have a terrible Wi-Fi connection and can’t fabricate it over Zoom.

At the end of the day, students need to put themselves in our professors’ shoes. Professors are trying their best to be understanding of students this semester, but there’s a point where they may begin to question whether we actually need the accommodations we’re asking for. There are students who truly need help – don’t be the person to play a crackling noise on your computer to get out of answering a question. It shows a great deal of privilege and is genuinely rude to professors. 

We should want the same thing this semester: to be able to learn and attend classes. In a time of national crisis, we must all be more understanding of each other and the personal situations that we are all in. This is a difficult time for everyone – some students are forced to learn in toxic environments, some have had to pick up additional jobs, some have to take care of their family and some are in less than ideal technological conditions. Not everybody is in the same position in life right now, and it is imperative that we all are able to look past our own selfish wants and needs to consider how our actions may impact others. That starts with our relationships with professors. 

Hannah Thacker, a junior majoring in political communication, is the opinions editor.

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