Add COVID-19 guidelines to syllabi

Sruti Ramachandran , Associate Editor

Getting COVID-19 as a student can be one of the most stressful realities of the upcoming semester. According to the UT COVID-19 Dashboard, there are 83 estimated active cases of COVID-19 on campus as of Aug. 24.  We have all witnessed how quickly that 83 can multiply. 

As UT returns to mostly in-person classes, professors should give more guidance to students on what to do if they contract the virus. Adding a section into course syllabi about what to do for classwork if students get COVID-19 would ensure that they can focus on regaining their health and not worry about unknowns surrounding missed work.

Maya Doshi, communication and leadership and business sophomore, was one of many students who contracted COVID-19 during the spring 2021 semester. She said she noticed a discrepancy between classes, with some professors communicating more clearly than others as well as offering different levels of support to help her make up the work she missed. 

 “There was a lot of uncertainty going on, and coming back from that was really stressful,” Doshi said. “It definitely could have benefited me to have … all professors being super clear about the protocols regarding that (COVID-19).”

Not only would adding clear and established guidance for COVID-19 in syllabi help students know what to do and feel better about communicating with their professors, but it would also help them carry out the required two weeks of isolation away from classes and make up their work once they get back. Even a few simple sentences added to the class syllabus could ease that transition and better support students’ mental health. 

Darsana Manayathu-Sasi, a Malayalam language and literature assistant professor, said she is open to adding a section into her syllabus if it would help with students’ stress. 

“I notice a certain fear in students about making up missed classwork, and I see providing students mental strength as a responsibility of mine as a teacher,” Manayathu-Sasi said.

Last semester, Manayathu-Sasi had a small section about COVID-19 in her syllabus, and she also used the first class of the semester to let students know what they should do if they fell ill. 

COVID-19 classwork policies in syllabi would help students to communicate without fear to their professors. Especially in larger classes or with unfamiliar professors, students may hesitate to reach out. Enhancing the communication between students and professors will both help students get support and allow professors to provide it.

Last semester, when Manayathu-Sasi had some students contract COVID-19 while taking her class, she worked with them to create alternative coursework to help them catch up. Her COVID-19 classwork policies made sure her students felt supported, and I encourage other professors to find solutions that work with their students as well. 

In these uncertain times, students are already facing added stress from the pandemic. Communicating with students is key to helping them with the transition to in-person classes, and adding COVID-19 guidelines to syllabi is a crucial component. In addition, being transparent about classroom COVID-19 policies tells students that they have a professor who will support and help them regain their footing —  not dump all of the missed assignments on them at once, making it difficult to catch up. Doshi expressed the importance of clear communication and support during stressful times.

“You can never have too much communication, especially when things are so uncertain, and it gives all of us a little more comfort knowing our professors are there for us.” 

Ramachandran is a communication and leadership and sociology sophomore.