In recent months as global events unfold, I-alongside millions of college students- was repeatedly told by administrations of ‘instructional resilience’. As part of SACUE, the Student Advisory Council for Undergraduate Education, I have also taken part in several discussions regarding how campus responds to emergencies like power outages, fires, and other phenomena that cause unrest on campus.
Something about the word was unsettling and confusing to me always. To this moment I am unsure how to exactly explain the weight of the term and the power it holds over campus. As we receive a bombardment of emails now from companies, schools, and news about how much ‘worse’ our situation in the United States and the world becomes during the COVID-19 pandemic, I can only turn to memories of how things used to be.
In one email titled “Remote instruction through semester’s end”, the university stated “[p]rotecting the health and safety of members of the campus community remains our priority. [They] also are committed to preserving our academic mission.” According to comparably.com, UC Berkeley’s mission and vision statement is as follows: “…From this home its academic community makes key contributions to the economic and social well-being of the Bay Area, California, the nation, and the world. The Division of the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education creates and advances vital academic initiatives to amplify individual and collective achievement. We identify opportunities, make connections, and maximize resources in order to promote progress, inspire collaboration and synergy, and maximize efficacy for all members of the campus community.”
Abridged, our mission is a collective progress and initiatives for achievement.
One thing I do appreciate about our university is that they value student-centered frameworks. Over the past few weeks, despite our uncertainty with our jobs, academics, and what we might do over the summer, the university did try to offer support for students in any way that they can. They have given us access to resources and blasted them via email and newsletter from every outlet. It was reassuring to see how even silo-ed off departments and centers have come together and pooled resources to share and build on during these times. The campus has also been active in providing internet connectivity and technology support during these times, as well as providing housing refunds for those who wish to move back home. I think providing this kind of student relief has given students some ease in this time of distress.
In terms of coursework, my classes have been interesting – all with different approaches to this new period-and era- of learning. One of my professors hasn’t changed the schedule or hours at all to accomodate for students and lectures for three hours via zoom. While I appreciate the efforts for normalcy and constancy, I found unsettling having to sit in front of a computer for 3 hours and be able to focus. I realize it is the same time as if I were in a classroom, but something about the faceless voice clicking through slides made me exit out of lecture early and convince myself that I could learn it myself then.
Recordings were not provided for this class, which was the most different portion compared to my other lectures. All my other courses have recordings for the students not within our time zone (PST). I understand there is a drop in engagement once recordings are allowed, but I just believe it’s beneficial to all students if there were an archive of lectures to look back on. My other professor took a notable different path to our usual 1.5h lectures. She researched first how people find it difficult to maintain information transmitted by online classes for her full 80 minute lecture. She then shared a new lesson plan, where each lecture was sectioned into an introductory conversation, 2-3 modules, and concluding remarks. She gave us the flexibility to watch the lectures when we wanted to at the pace we wanted to while segmenting the lecture to digestible sizes. Meanwhile, those wishing to maintain lectures at the same length and time could also call in with her to sit in lecture and discuss the readings, lecture topics, and course content.
It’s a difficult time for all of us, and the way we react I think is significant to how we will act on things in the future. For faculty, finding the balance between flexibility and normalcy is a difficult game that probably most instructors are still trying to grasp. For students, we search for peace in tasks we can do routinely while also having to find ways to pay for rent when we are unable to work to our full capacity. All the while we are isolated from our friends, the people we are familiar with, and the classroom conversations we miss. And while we are stuck inside for a few months to perhaps a few years, I think it’s time for us to really think about what instructional resilience means – and what resilience means to us as students and as citizens of the world.
This is a time for us to grow and step forward in how we view university instruction and how we react to national and global catastrophes. It isn’t enough to just keep “keeping up productivity as normal”, because that is just a temporary fix for a long-term, and perhaps repeating, threat to humanity and daily operations. It’s time to evolve in our approaches and interactions with alarming situations and come together beyond departmental or cultural barriers to think about what comes next and embody the Berkeley academic mission for collective progress.