Op-ed: NU’s attendance policy negatively impacts students

Ava Alaeddini, contributor

While I am enjoying the fully in-person return to campus life, I am dreading getting sick from the endless contact, which could result in me needing to miss class. The start of the fall 2022 semester marked the first time that Northeastern is fully back to its pre-pandemic ways. Zoom classes or hybrid mode will not be an option for many classes, with some professors emphasizing a stricter attendance policy than previous years. Some professors are encouraging students to drop courses if they anticipate missing more than a couple classes, citing how fast paced the courses are planned for the entire semester. However, with masks being optional, classes meeting completely in-person again and students able to hang out together freely, there are a lot of foreseeable exposures to getting sick. COVID-19 has not disappeared and it still affects many Northeastern students and faculty members.

I do believe that professors should still offer a Zoom option for anyone who is feeling unwell with any type of illness, not just students who have tested positive for COVID-19. If professors do not want to deal with the complications Zoom may have, the alternative should be recording the class, especially if there are a large number of students absent due to illness. With the current attendance policy some are enforcing, what happens if a student is out with the flu for more than a couple of classes? I believe none of the students want to miss class for long because they will fall behind and it will only result in being more stressed. Without the flexibility from the school, students are essentially being left to catch up on their own or be forced to attend class out of desperation, potentially exposing other students to whatever sickness they have. 

In an interview with [email protected], Chancellor Ken Henderson replied to the question of what will happen if students test positive for COVID-19 and  have to keep up with their classes simultaneously. 

“The university will make academic accommodations for anyone with any illness – not just COVID-19. It’s up to individual professors to decide what accommodation works best for them and their students. The professor could record the session and give students access. It could be synchronous live classes. It could be assignments,” Henderson said. 

However, it seems to me that Northeastern has not been fully keeping their promise to make academic accommodations for anyone with any illness besides COVID-19. 

Since the beginning of this new semester, certain courses have completely eliminated Zoom and class recordings as an option all together. In my own classes, professors have gone as far as to emphasize on the syllabus not to request a Zoom link for class unless a student has proof of a positive COVID-19 test. While students are enjoying the pre-COVID-19 normality, there are others who are worried about this strict attendance policy. While I agree that academics have to return to this sense of normalcy, my biggest concern is that this strict attendance policy will encourage students to attend class despite feeling sick, because of the fear of missing important information and the potential for negative impacts to their performance in the class. 

The bottom line is that no one should be going to their classes if they are not feeling well, whether it is COVID-19 or not. If you feel sick, then stay in your room. While I understand Northeastern wants to revert back to the pre-pandemic ways of the world, alternatives in a classroom setting needs to be provided. 

Classrooms at Northeastern are equipped with technologies that allow for hybrid learning to prevent spread of illness. The simple act of providing a Zoom link or recorded lectures for students who are not feeling well can make all the difference. It is also important to extend this option to anyone who is sick and not just those with COVID-19. While we are able to enjoy in-person campus life once again, Northeastern must not forget to show empathy to students that may be feeling under the weather. 

Ava Alaeddini is a third-year English major. She can be reached at [email protected]