As college students, we learn to put up with almost anything. Before the switch to online learning, I heard countless stories of students sleeping at the Perry-Castañeda Library multiple nights a week to keep up with their ridiculous workloads. Many of us walked around campus with our shoulders hunched over, bags under our eyes, appearances slightly disheveled — but we did so knowing we were all experiencing these struggles together. I didn’t think anything of it because struggling was as synonymous with college as eating ramen for dinner every night.
I thought it was perfectly normal that we willed ourselves through every week until we could let our guard down at a party, concert or brunch, only to have to steel ourselves to go through this monotonous cycle all over again the next week.
But if there’s anything online classes have taught me, it’s that college students shouldn’t have to put up with almost anything.
The pandemic has revealed many of the flaws at UT that we shouldn’t ignore any longer. There are changes we could make that could significantly improve students’ physical and mental health and aren’t drastic to implement.
Lectures could have been recorded all along for students who face difficulties being physically present in class for legitimate reasons. Many in-person meetings could have been replaced with brief emails. More professors could implement polling services — or even a version of the chat box on Zoom — to encourage different forms of participation that accommodate students who are uncomfortable with speaking up in class. Now that we don’t have any other option, it isn’t so difficult to imagine a world where we have a little more compassion for each other.
My generation is notoriously looked down upon for being too sensitive. Our concerns are dismissed as soon as phrases like “safe space” and “trigger warning” are uttered.
But we are far from delicate. If anything, when we name the problems and try to fix them, we create a more sound infrastructure for ourselves and for the students that will come after us.
My friends and I have been talking about how we just want things to go back to “normal.” However, I can’t help but notice how this pandemic is especially difficult for certain groups of students because of the cracks in the University’s infrastructure. As we look forward to the return of normalcy, I think it’s time we discard our rose-colored glasses and do away with “traditional” learning practices just for the sake of sentimentality.
During this strange time, we should think of ways our college experience can be improved once we can finally set foot on campus again. I don’t want to return to our beloved Forty Acres and have things just go back to normal, to the way things were.
Rather than bask in nostalgia like we may be tempted to, let’s be critical about the kind of school we want to welcome us home.
Sailale is an undeclared PACE freshman from Dallas.