D. Torres – Week 2 Response

Higher education has been impacted by COVID-19 in a multitude of aspects, which are still being identified and experienced by students across the United States. Social inequalities such as healthcare, and income were easily hidden while on-campus when learning within a traditional in-classroom environment. Online learning has opened the window into personal living spaces, household responsibilities and arrangements. Professors now must incorporate extraneous variables such as unreliable internet connectivity, learning devices, and sick relatives into their already difficult learning plans. Educational institutions must take the time to re-evaluate pre-pandemic policies that no longer support faculty and staff members in meaningful ways. It will be critical to formulate new updated policies that do not unintentionally impact groups in a negative manner. An example can be seen by Florida State University’s attempt at imposing a childcare policy that would have adversely impacted employee caregivers. The City University of New York demonstrated its own commitment to students when it refunded a portion of activity fee funds to all students regardless of finances during the Spring 20 term.

Furthermore, how do we address the public sentiment that online instruction isn’t as rigorous or credible as in-classroom learning? According to former President Trump, online learning is “not the same thing as being in a classroom in a great college or a college of any kind” furthering the devaluation of current academic degrees. The same sentiment has also been documented within academia by Brown University’s President stating “the fierce intellectual debates that just aren’t the same on Zoom” which demonstrates the pervasive valuing in-classroom over online learning. In order to combat this sentiment the CUNY system may raise public awareness as to how it’s colleges’ liberal arts degree develop critical thinkers that contribute to the New York City community regardless of modality.

Surprisingly, COVID-19 is not the first instance of higher education being shut down due to public health or national disaster. Numerous historical events such as the Spanish flu, WW II, hurricane Sandy, and 9-11 have all shut down campuses and entire cities in the past. Academic institutions and community members have been able to persevere in order to educate the next generation of learners and academic scholars. The Post World War II era created the GI-BILL which has paid for the education of millions of student veterans. We currently have an opportunity to create new innovative policies that ensure educational equity for all. Below are a few additional questions to keep in mind for the upcoming Fall 2021 campus re-openings:

• Are students entitled to tuition reductions for online learning?
• Should institutions begin thinking of merging with similar liberal arts colleges or research institutions?
• Will vaccinations be mandated to access the campuses?
• Should admission moratoriums be implemented due to the job market?