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We need proactive academic policies

By Thresher Editorial Board     11/30/21 11:19pm

We’re nearing the end of another semester in the COVID-19 pandemic, filled with policy changes requiring flexibility from administration, faculty and students alike. We appreciate the administration’s responsiveness to the evolving pandemic, but the continuous changes are not without consequences. This semester has been hard on many students’ mental health due to insufficient academic accommodations on top of pandemic-related stress. While we understand the necessity in being flexible with COVID policies due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, administration and professors should recognize the impact this has on students and their mental health, and be proactive in accounting for this.

We’ve said it before, but the lack of standard academic accommodations is frustrating for students, as each professor interprets directives from administration differently. While this is unavoidable to a certain extent, there are steps that can be taken to minimize this inconsistency.

To start, the administration should mandate that professors take certain actions. Just before midterm recess, the provost sent an email to faculty requesting them to “please provide students the opportunity to rest and enjoy the recess without having work due during or immediately after midterm recess. They truly need it.” The sentiment of this email was appreciated by the student body, but many professors chose to ignore its contents. Providing faculty with this request before the semester starts, and allowing them to plan their syllabi around it, would be beneficial to all. 

Additionally, this fall the drop deadline was pushed until the last day of classes, but news of the change did not come until just days before the previous deadline. By this point, most students intending to drop a class had already done so; announcing this change earlier would have been more effective in providing students with the intended relief.

As we approach next semester, there is once again a new variant emerging with the potential to derail our new normal. While we don’t yet know exactly how Omicron will impact our campus and the world, we do know that the Rice community will once again need to adapt to a new set of circumstances. This time, we hope the administration takes a close look at the struggles of students this semester and makes tangible steps to avoid repeating the same oversights.

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Ivanka Perez, Nayeli Shad, Talha Arif, Morgan Gage and Daniel Schrager.

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