Labor Day is usually thought of as the last hurrah of summer—but we should not forget the original purpose of this national holiday: a day to celebrate workers. Now more than ever before, Brandeis’ staff and faculty deserve our gratitude.
Brandeis staff—including facilities workers, maintenance, dining hall workers and university cleaning staff—all deserve our gratitude. Without them, our university would cease to function. While the Brandeis staff have always been deserving of thanks, we must recognize that their workload has increased dramatically this semester. Public areas and classrooms require frequent deep cleanings and sanitization and workers must devote time to this effort in order to keep the Brandeis community healthy.
Unlike previous years, Brandeis’ staff faces the additional risk of contracting the coronavirus while working on campus. The fact that these staff members continue to come to work each day despite the clear risk to their person makes them deserving of our respect, gratitude and commendation. We, the editorial board of The Brandeis Hoot, would like to thank all of Brandeis’ staff for their service.
Brandeis as an institution, however, could offer more support to the staff—particularly because the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have caused nation-wide financial losses. The university recently announced that staff members will receive five additional days off “in recognition of the significant efforts made by our staff to support the University’s response to COVID-19 and our scaling up plans,” according to the Sep. 3 issue of “InBrief: Finance and Administration.”
While this is a step in the right direction, the university should offer staff greater compensation for their work in these unprecedented times. Given their critical role, Brandeis University’s staff deserve more than a mere five extra days off—days that must be approved by their supervisor, used before August 2021 and that cannot be cashed out if an employee leaves the university, according to an earlier Hoot article.
We encourage the student body to appreciate the people who provide students with food, clean living spaces, working facilities and a secure internet connection. As students, we have a responsibility to help university staff by making sure we’re picking up our trash—particularly in dining halls and in campus greenspaces. Similar to wearing a mask, each student has a responsibility to make Brandeis a better place for the collective good—which includes that of the university staff.
There are some staff members on this campus who may not be seen, but their presence is felt in every aspect of life at Brandeis. While often gone unnoticed, staff members like those working at Information Technology Services (ITS) deserve our appreciation. ITS staff prepared for the change to online learning this semester by installing routers in every dorm room to provide a stronger internet connection for students taking online classes and continue to support students, staff and faculty through online learning.
This stronger internet service is being used to aid a transition to online classes—which began with a shaky start. During spring 2020, many students often felt their learning experience was suffering because of the lack of in-person interaction, online meeting fatigue and faculty members struggling to adapt their in-person teaching styles to a completely virtual experience. As we start the beginning of the fall semester, while a select few are able to experience a unique in-person class experience, more than 95 percent of classes on campus remain online or a hybrid of in-person and online elements. And those professors responsible for aiding the transition to online learning deserve our thanks as well.
Graduate students and faculty members have spent their summers adapting typical lesson plans to accommodate online learning. Faculty members spent the summer taking courses through the Center for Teaching and Learning at Brandeis to learn different ways to best support students remotely to ensure that the quality of learning and teaching don’t falter.
While we often think about the ways in which online learning has affected us as students, we should also consider that Brandeis faculty is struggling along with us. Nobody wanted the semester to be taught in this way, but, like the rest of the world, the circumstances have forced us into uncharted territories. Virtual classes can feel more mundane and less engaging for everyone involved. Most faculty members chose to pursue a career in academia because they enjoy the invigorating environment of the classroom—now replaced by a computer screen.
Online learning poses many challenges, from technological difficulties to finding creative ways to keep participants engaged. Despite these hurdles, the Brandeis faculty is trying their best to make this semester just as educational and thought-provoking as previous semesters. We as students can in turn do our best to engage with the coursework and virtual classroom in a new digital world.
From the professors and teaching assistants working to ease digital fatigue to the food services employees we see at every meal to the people who make our lives easier in ways we may not even notice, we want to thank all of the workers who shape our Brandeis experience.