Gustavo Contreras/Staff Writer
On Friday May 22, FIU’s Repopulating Task Force uploaded a 36-page plan titled “Panthers Protecting Panthers” in order to transition back to campus.
I, for one, could not agree more, despite having argued to keep Florida closed for longer less than a month ago. So what changed?
In order to answer that, we have to acknowledge that the lockdown was not placed as a measure to eradicate the coronavirus, but to flatten the curve and provide medical attention to those who have been suffering the worst of the symptoms.
With that being said, I will not tread lightly on how we have handled COVID-19 as a state.
First Things First
On May 7, the Miami-Dade county commission selfishly rejected paid sick-leave for contractors, citing similarities to Cuba’s “socialism.” More recently, on Monday May 18, Florida’s manager for the COVID-19 dashboard was removed from her position for refusing to censor data that would support reopening Florida.
Our local community of Broward and Miami-Dade county has lost over 900 lives due to COVID-19. That is over 900 local community lives that we may not have felt, but that are irreplaceable and permanently gone. It is with this in mind that I am too heartbroken to even argue the fallacies of the infectivity rate or the “low fatality chances” to convey the need for opening FIU.
As young students, we have to recognize that although we are the least-likely to get infected, we commuters bring these odds to our families, friends and anyone we pass by in our communities. However, we are in a lose-lose situation health-wise and economically, and have been for the past few months, digging deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.
We Are Being Academically Handicapped
It’s warranted to assume that everything is not in place to reopen, but reading FIU’s plans, it is clear that they aim to balance health and safety while maintaining a satisfactory learning institution. It may not be the most agreeable plan, but it is the best that we have.
Here is to the counter-argument that many of our classes, quizzes and finals are already online: yes, we have magnificent programs such as Canvas and hybrid courses to simplify online learning. But it made sense to transition online in the summer, when the average student takes about two classes.
The issue with “Zoom University” continuing throughout the fall—when the average student takes between four to six classes—is that you’ve got to wonder if you’re really getting the bang for your buck on these college costs, and whether you can actually apply what you are learning to your future career.
This is without mentioning the technical difficulties of Zoom and Canvas, the frustration from students and teachers alike, the “Zoom bombing” and the unrepresented—those who either cannot afford electronic gadgets and proper wifi, or are in arduous international time zones. A student from Turkey would have to be awake at 12:00 a.m. to attend a 5:00 p.m. class taking place in Florida.
I took an astronomy lab during the adjustment to remote learning, and I can personally say that while I had a great professor and support from the department, it still took place at a hectic time, and students who were on track for a 3.5-4.0 GPA now had to adjust to Pass/No Credit scores because of the academic disparities between in-person and online learning.
We are being academically handicapped. The summer semester is prime-time when internships are rampant and we gain hands-on experience in our career field, so when many of us lost our internships thanks to the lockdown, we started falling behind. If fall classes do take place online, we are going to lose experience from practical courses that require more than just writing, which has already been an outreached concern from local students.
For certain graduate schools, such as medical school, you cannot take necessary exams, meaning you might have to hold back on graduation. So not only are you losing experience to add on your resumé, but you also won’t be able to graduate this year. But at least that means you won’t have to touch on the confusing matters of virtual graduation!
More Than An Education
And it’s not just about academics. Health, safety and wellness are basic needs that FIU provides—all of which are restricted by virtual limitations.
Programs such as CAPS have adjusted to virtual appointments in order to still manage and assist students in need, but it’s difficult to provide mental health services online and I would not be surprised if CAPS’ attendance has taken a sharp decline because of this. Meanwhile, dorm residents who are proud of their LGBTQ+ orientations are finding difficulty being themselves back home, as another columnist has well stated.
As a student and dorm resident, I believe that FIU’s handling of the adjustments to remote learning has been superb for a university that had to take care of more than 55,000 confused students at once. But what about faculty members and older students who are more susceptible to the virus?
FIU’s current draft explains that “adaptations for self-disclosed individuals of high-risk populations”—in other words, those who have underlying health conditions, are above 65, care for sick family members, and so on—will “be considered.” They need to be more than considered, but we are still in the draft process.
Other colleges are exploring the ability to reopen, with some being in densely-populated areas, such as New York, California and Chicago. If these colleges open but we stay closed, FIU will be left behind, giving us a competitive disadvantage in the job market thanks to the lack of both internships and career experience gained in practical courses.
It comes with great sadness for me to have to say that we must move on, but it is imperative that we dig ourselves out of this hole to avoid hitting rock bottom.
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