Dear Lafayette Faculty,
Between us, we have spoken or exchanged emails with a great number of students, and from what we can tell, the fall 2020 semester is off to a terrific start. There is great appreciation for the work that was done to prepare for this semester. We have heard about many thoughtful innovations made by faculty members; for example, courses with faculty-designed laboratory kits, meaningful gestures acknowledging the difficulties for students in this remote environment, and making sure students are aware of the resources that are available, from technology to counseling.
Some difficulties have arisen in the first few days of the semester, and we thought it could be helpful to mention them. These concerns mainly surround the limited resources that students have when they are at home instead of on campus. We have heard from students who do not have access to printers or scanners that it would be helpful to consider alternate means by which materials might be distributed or collected. We know that some courses have associated fees for materials, and so it is understandable that some laboratory sections are asking students to purchase them. While financial aid packages do consider factors such as the cost of textbooks and supplies, it might not be sufficient to cover extraordinary out-of-pocket expenses. It is important to foster an environment where students feel comfortable approaching faculty members and the financial aid office when the cost incurred by a class becomes overly burdensome, especially when many families are facing new financial hardships. In terms of class participation, some students are not clear on how this will be evaluated in a remote environment, particularly for those learning in different time zones. Similarly, some students are not comfortable with having their cameras on during class for a variety of reasons. CITLS has a post on the collaborative creation of guidelines, and one of the Teaching at Lafayette FAQ items discusses students’ use of cameras. And, as can happen in any semester, we have heard of some classes going over their assigned time allotment.
We are grateful for all the time that you have put into the development of your classes and for the many ways you have been supportive this past spring, over the summer, and here at the start of the fall semester.
Luisa Gunn ’21
Director, Academic Affairs Committee, Student Government
Provost and Roth Professor of Mathematics