Like many other students, I was thrilled when Northeastern announced its hybrid model June 5 after several long months in quarantine. I knew this hybrid model would not be the normal college experience, but it would create some semblance of what it used to be.
A month later, I signed a 12-month lease because I needed to secure housing with the semester beginning soon, but I was never notified whether or not my professors were teaching online. Unlike students, who had to either sign a lease or submit their housing deposits by July 15, professors had until Aug. 15 to decide if they would teach in person. A friend of mine encouraged me to email all of my professors and ask if they were teaching in-person because all of hers were teaching remotely. At her recommendation, I took matters into my own hands and received the same response. If I could’ve attended just one class in person, I would have come to Boston this semester. But needless to say, I am home in Washington, D.C.
Northeastern sold a hybrid model ensuring frequent testing, quarantine procedures, COVID-19-conscious housing and dining accommodations. This part of the promise was kept, and I truly commend Northeastern on all of the resources they dedicated to reopening in the safest way possible. But while they were focused on reopening, they neglected the most important aspect of our college experience — classes.
I am not upset that my professors chose to teach remotely because I understand that they have to look out for their own well-being. However, my frustration lies within Northeastern’s lack of transparency, thus forcing students to make important decisions without knowing what they were signing up for. If I had known earlier that all of my classes were remote, I would not have committed to signing a lease.
It is clear my professors are doing everything they can to provide the best possible experience for their students, but I think we can do even better. Especially given that Northeastern is extending NUflex into the spring semester, we must begin making improvements to the system now.
First, Northeastern must improve communication with students. Northeastern needs to tell students important information as soon as possible and effectively. For example, professors must make their decision on teaching remotely or in person before students have to commit to housing. Additionally, making major announcements through [email protected]’s FAQs is not enough. We must get email notifications clearly stating expectations and reopening procedures.
Secondly, while I understand students in different time zones or those facing other circumstances may depend on pre-recorded lectures, why not make it mandatory to record live lectures? This option would allow students who are unable to attend live lectures to learn from their peers and hear questions their classmates had live, addressing questions they too might have.
Without live interactions, we miss out on the most important parts of our education. We do not get the opportunity to learn from each others’ questions and mistakes. We do not get to have spontaneous discussions. We do not get to know our classmates to schedule study groups or our professors outside of virtual office hours. Instead, I must depend on interactive textbooks, which are meant to be an aid, not the foundation of my education.
Lastly, Northeastern should provide better access to mental health resources. This is not an easy time for anyone, and students need support now more than ever. Along with reopening updates, students also need reminders about mental health resources at their disposal. Whether students are at home or on campus, they are facing unprecedented circumstances during this pandemic, which inevitably elevate stress levels.
Northeastern promised a hybrid system, but it is not without flaws. Like the coronavirus, NUflex is not going away, so it is crucial that the university takes students’ concerns into consideration when planning for the upcoming semester. It may seem early to begin such planning, but for this to work, Northeastern’s administration must act now.