What the Institute should focus on in the new year

Photo by Garrett Shoemaker Student Publications

With every new year comes new promises. We make promises to ourselves, to others, and for others. These promises, or resolutions, are often about bettering our health, pursuing our passions and general well-being. We at the Technique call for the Institute to uphold their own resolutions — to make efforts in the upcoming year to better our health, mental and physical, academic experience and the overall Tech experience.

Three years into this pandemic, campus has evolved in ways no one expected, but a lot of change is yet to come. As we enter this new year while riding the wave of a new variant — Omicron — it feels like the student body is being left to fend for themselves with rising cases on campus. According to Tech’s COVID-19 dashboard, there was a peak of 46 incidents of COVID-19-positive individuals on campus in January of 2021. In comparison, there has been a peak of 167 incidents of COVID-positive individuals this January so far, and the month is not even over.  

Students have long since returned to classrooms and in-person extracurriculars, yet the accessibility to many classes and campus activities remains limited for those who have to quarantine or isolate. 

Other universities opted for a remote start to the semester as Omicron cases continue to rise while Tech students were thrust back into confined indoor spaces and encouraged to gather in classrooms on an almost-daily basis. 

It is highly unlikely that the Institute will return to fully-remote learning unless USG requires it of their institutions, but we believe that the Institute can offer more to ensure the safe return of students to campus.

We acknowledge and appreciate the value of an in-person education, but having a remote option for all courses, not just some, would provide a sense of security that students will not be punished for their inability to be physically present in a classroom. 

Despite being half-way through this academic year, there is still no uniform institute policy requiring professors to offer remote alternatives to in-person classes in the case of a COVID-19 exposure or positive test result.

Some professors offer an option to call into class if you cannot attend in person while others do not, leaving students’ grades and the possibility of falling behind up to one professor. While many professors have been understanding of student’s situations and flexible with their assignment deadlines and attendance, there is no guarantee that the same grace will be given to other students whose instructors are not as forgiving.

Part of this ties back to the campus and student services offered and the way they are communicated to us when we first arrive as freshmen. Departments like the Office of the Dean of Students are meant to help facilitate these interactions with faculty and ensure that students are getting the support we need, but by the time a situation that requires their involvement arises, students have often already been pushed to the brink of mental and physical exhaustion. 

Sometimes it feels as if we should only reach out for help when facing the extreme, such as when people recommend visiting the Counseling Center after you have already experienced a personal crisis, rather than before. These services seem to exist to resolve issues once they have already occurred but not prevent them from happening in the first place. Once again, the burden falls on students to reach out for help. 

Sometimes being a student at Tech feels a bit like going through years of constant damage control with no preventative care. In 2022, we ask for the Institute to ensure they are looking out for us every day, not just in our lowest moments.