Editorial: Course policies unfairly expect in-person attendance
As many classes are returning to an in-person format, Tufts students who remain in isolation or quarantine due to positive COVID-19 tests or contact tracing continue to face many difficulties with to classmates who can attend each class session. In response, sSome professors remain aware of the challenges that an absence related to COVID-19 can cause and have adjusted their program accordingly. However, many have re-enacted pre-pandemic class policies that impose a cost on missing a lecture or attend virtually due to exposure to COVID-19.
Amid the ongoing pandemic, it is essential that students remain able to complete their classes even when they cannot be physically present in the classroom.
In Brain and Behavior, a psychology course offered at Tufts, exams are only offered in an in-person format during class hours, unless otherwise specified. The lesson involves three non-cumulative exams and optional final cover material of the entire semester, of which the three of the four highest exams are counted in the student’s grade. the last exam is designed as a “retake test”, and sstudents who miss any of the previous exams are required to take the final.
Along the same lines, the Introduction to the The Algorithms class requires students to complete ongoing weekly quizzes to ensure students stay current on the material. The oThe only way to take the quiz is to attend class in person at the time it is administered, and there are no face-painting or virtual options for students who miss classes due to COVID-19.
These courses claim to address potential absences related to COVID-19 through specific policies in their programs. For example, in the Introduction to Algorithms course, the two lowest marks of the current quiz are dropped. According to course staff, this policy was implemented to “accommodate students who may not be able to attend due to illness or other reasons”.
Despite the best intentions, policies like these encourage students to attend class as much as possible so they can maximize the number of assessments from which a grade can be taken. This can encourage students to go against university politicswho asks students who are not feeling well to come to campus. Requiring students to be in person for assessments thwarts Tufts’ COVID-19 mitigation strategy and advice from public health experts.
While such policies were common in many courses prior to COVID-19, many professors have changed their course modality, allowing for hybrid attendance and increased flexibility during the pandemic. Indeed, it may be too early to abandon such accommodations in the age of the pandemic.
the the university has ostensibly done a lot progress in his fight against COVID-19; yet, we remain in a pandemic period, where the stability of in-person attendance is still somewhat precarious. Professors need to implement course policies for this new environment, in which students should not feel pressured to attend every class session in person, especially since, despite the drop in the number of cases at both in Tufts and in Massachusetts, last week the the university reported 135 cases of COVID-19.
Ideally, if a student is feeling ill, they should be able to feel comfortable staying in their dorm or home until they test negative for COVID-19 and communicate this need to their teachers. Students should certainly not feel even remotely pressured to attend lectures for fear of missing a graded assignment.
Additionally, students who test positive for COVID-19 should not be academically penalized for their diagnosis. COVID-19 positive students are already facing an uphill battle to recover from their illness, adapt to isolation in The Mods and resume their studies while taking classes virtually – they don’t need the added burden of missing graded assignments.
Professors should align their course policies with current Tufts COVID-19 guidelines in a way that does not academically punish students who self-isolate for COVID-19 or encourage those who may be ill to attend class. This pressure to go to class when he is sick could ppotentially putting classmates, faculty, and staff at risk of exposure. More PTeachers, some of whom may have young children who still cannot get vaccinated, are often more at risk from the effects of COVID-19 than students.
As the mid-term season is about to begin, it is imperative that students feel well supported in case they are unable to attend exams in person. Especially on condition that Tufts policy encourages sick students to stay home until they test negative., course policies must be aligned to promote the health of students and staff. We encourage administration to work with instructors to find strategies to mitigate course policy challenges and to support students who must miss classes due to illness.