Keep online course options for the fall

Hairuo Yi

This time last year, I was a newly committed Longhorn. However, while my classmates were looking forward to orientation and classes, I was going through the lengthy process of getting my I-20 document to prove my student status so I could get a F-1 student visa to study full-time in the fall. 

Though it took a month for me to receive my I-20 to even apply for a visa appointment, it would take me three months to secure an appointment in Mexico, as opposed to the 13-monthlong wait in the U.S. Without this appointment, I could not register for a full course load, nor participate in many student organizations that require full-time status. I got my visa two weeks before classes began, but I’m one of the lucky ones.

Due to COVID-19, many countries have shut down their embassies and consulates, leaving international students stuck in their home countries and unable to attend in-person classes.

Currently, there is only one operating consulate in China, where 1,281 UT students are citizens as of fall 2020. Since the presidential announcement on April 30, all routine visa appointments have been canceled in India, the country with the second highest number of UT international students at 581. If the situation perseveres, incoming students from these countries will not be able to attend in-person classes that will dominate degree requirements next fall. 

For every in-person class, UT needs to provide an online course option for students unable to attend in person classes in fall 2021.

These problems are not unique to international students either. The Senate of College Councils has already recognized the need for online options for immunocompromised and disabled students and passed a resolution to continue online opportunities in the fall.

Nutrition sophomore Divya Kashyap, who co-authored the legislation, said that for many students with physical and learning disabilities like her, being able to access learning materials online this year has been very beneficial.

“The reason that I advocate for (online classes) is because of accessibility,” Kashyap said. “For people who have disabilities, it can be really hard to get to class in person or retain information after hearing it one time.” 

UT seems to pay no mind to these issues.

“Students enrolled at the University are expected to come to campus to participate and attend their classes and meet their degree requirements,” said Kathleen Harrison, communications manager in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, in an email.  “Approximately 90% of the courses offered this coming fall will be in-person. Offering both in-person and online options simultaneously would not be possible given the time and resources needed to get campus back to being fully operational for the fall.”

However, it’s not a lack of resources that is the concern for professors either.

“I don’t think it’s a question of resources,” law and government professor Jeffrey Abramson said. “I had to get special permission to offer this one course in the fall online. They weren’t eager for me to offer a course online. No one said resources. I just think they’re afraid of not being an in-person university because they would have to charge less tuition eventually.”

If the University is making it harder for professors to provide online options while ignoring student needs for accessibility, it needs to take a step back and reconsider its priorities. 

UT needs to look past its fears of lowering tuition and provide students who are deeply affected by the pandemic options to continue pursuing an education they paid for and deserve.

Yi is a psychology freshman from Lubbock, Texas.