Academic amnesty is a must

November 20, 2020

As the end of this semester nears, the thought of receiving grades seems beyond ridiculous to me. While it’s been three and a half months of continuous work, exams and essays, I am more than aware of the difficulties my friends and I, and many others, have had to deal with during these extraordinary times. It seems plenty apparent to me and many of the people I surround myself with that the coronavirus, and more generally the experiences of quarantine, have had significantly negative effects on nearly everyone’s behavior and mental health. 

While a lot of the conversation on the negative effects of COVID-19 and quarantine are directed at the detriments to mental and physical health, there seems to be little done to effectively alleviate students of this stress. Students have had to deal with loss of family members, extreme financial constraints and loss of adequate socialization. Some were forced to go back into homes to environments that they were precisely trying to escape from. Some have had their mental healths pushed to new brinks. Some have unfortunately been victimized by all of the above. All at the same time, these students have been expected to perform in class with similar amounts of work ethic while simultaneously adapting to our professors’ unorganized and extremely new ways of educating. 

I have seen many peers encounter academic stress like they never have before. I have heard demands and complaints from professors on the lateness and lack of motivation of students. I have been witness to this administration’s role in actively calling for academic and behavioral penalties even throughout a pandemic. It is quite clear there exists a wide and dangerous disconnect from students experiencing the weight of this pandemic, the trauma that is this presidential election and the struggles of daily life. 

While school policies and professors have put on the face of being accommodating, understanding and in favor of our livelihood, they continue to be an added stressor and oftentimes the main issue. This facade of understanding and the weekly “de-stress” or “self-motivate” Zoom sessions are not the answer. That is shifting accountability and responsibility to the student as they are being forced to overperform in an environment that was and is inherently counterproductive. 

A solution, something that effectively aids students and not just pat them on wounded backs, would be to actively call for leniency and academic amnesty. As we enter into finals season, where a majority of students will be subject to immense psychological stress manifested through virtually all areas of life, Brandeis University should take the lead and guarantee students will not be penalized or subject to academic failure. 

Brandeis University should analyze the vast qualitative data that exists examining the mental deterioration of students, the added pressures Black and brown students face and the extreme mental constraints encountered by low-income students and conclude that punitive actions, whether academic or administrative, cannot, in good conscience, be allowed. This semester, inherently, was a trial run of what a blended learning experience throughout a pandemic could look like. Consequently, students should not have to face added detriment for the fault that the environment we live in is characterized by disorder and corruption to the highest levels of this land. Academic amnesty and distribution of mental health and financial resources is the solution that encapsulates exactly what this university preaches that it stands for: a form of social justice that actually, effectively and directly aids its students. 

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