Students Feel “Abandoned” By Iowa Colleges
While reading this article it is important to remember that colleges and universities have never had to deal with something like this before. Naturally, a global pandemic is bound to put a few kinks in the curriculum. This makes it very easy to point out what is being done wrong in response. However, some students have been fortunate enough to be involved in programs that have chosen to go above and beyond in terms of helping students.
This article is not intended to be a pity party but rather it is meant to illuminate the amount of stress being caused due to the shortcomings of some college programs in Iowa. This is also not against the teachers working hard to try and help. Teachers are also feeling unheard by the administration.
I spoke with countless college students from all over Iowa and asked them about their experiences with professors, areas of study, and more. Some reports from students like Marisa Bieschke, a junior at UNI, have had very positive experiences (mostly because of the teachers helping) with the way these unprecedented times are being addressed at school. While others like Grace Mouring, a junior at Coe College, shared some truly frustrating circumstances.
Many students preferred to stay anonymous for their contributions to this article as speaking out could potentially cause more issues, but many stories were very concerning to hear and deserved to be shared.
One first-year student at Kirkwood Community College stated,
"Let me tell you about my Hitler teacher. He frequently makes things hard. Just yesterday we had 58 minutes to do a 53 question test in which there were about 2 or 3 short essay questions too."
Another Kirkwood student, Isa Trumeper stated,
"It's hard for everyone. I live out in the country. The wifi is awful, that makes classes awful, most teachers understand. I'm lucky though. I'd imagine others don't."
An unreasonable exam and poor internet connection is something many students have faced regularly over the years while at college. It’s well known that college is a stressful experience, but the pressure to do well as a student as more and more classes convert to virtual formatting likely adds to said difficulties. A sophomore at NIACC also spoke out about his experience,
"I had my macroeconomics teacher tell me that his office hours are for on campus students ONLY. Despite him being the facilitator of the course. And I have a dual schedule, so only one of my classes is on campus. Some of the older instructors are definitely not adjusting well to the new normal."
Difficult professors with harsh policies are also nothing new to learning, but the unexpected adjustments that accompany online teaching creates an entire new realm of difficulties. Mia Gerace, a student at the University of Iowa said,
"It sucks, making friends is so hard when it's your first year and you need friends in order to ask questions so that you don't bother your professor yanno? It's also hard to gauge how you're doing, if you're being too hard on yourself, or if your classmates are also struggling. The support system is nonexistent unless every meeting you have is calculated, intentional and purposeful."
Another student at U of I, a sophomore named Mary Weston shared her frustrations, but was also very understanding about the matter,
"I think everyone is struggling with the adaptations we’ve had to make with the pandemic, however I think professors forget that while they only have to adapt the format of delivery for the material they’ve been teaching for years, us students have multiple classes of brand new material coming at us at full speed and we are expected to handle the workload the exact same way we would if everything were in person. Every week the university sends out an email with the COVID statistics and people we can reach out to if we need help, but it would be nice if instead, someone were individually checking in with us and getting our input on the university operations."
"I respect each and every one of my professors and appreciate the work they do behind the scenes, but it’d be nice if they all acknowledged that we're all in this together, and even though it feels like we’re drowning, they have our best interests at heart."
A senior at Iowa State, Onel Valdez, expressed his dislike of how despite the shift to online classes, students are still paying full tuition prices,
"Iowa State has done everything they can to save their face and pockets. From a tuition clause saying they can still charge full price regardless of what instruction they provide this semester to the president sending a passive aggressive email threatening suspensions for any student found breaking COVID health regulations.”
Another student, Ethan Cooper, a Junior at Iowa State added,
"It sucks here at ISU, especially as an engineering student so much of my learning is lab based and the teachers just devise an attempt at remote lab courses then don’t update them to accommodate for ineffectiveness and struggling students. There’s petitions at ISU with thousands of signatures a piece to get students at least one pass fail class for the semester that the higher ups refuse to allow. I’ve already had two lab reports that I couldn’t complete due to very COVID specific technical difficulties that are now just zeroes in the grade book."
Out of all the students interviewed, among the most disappointed were students at Coe College. Some anonymous students stated how upset they were that they were told they could live off-campus due to COVID but were not informed that they could allegedly lose parts of their scholarships for doing so. Along with claims of lackluster mask mandates from the athletic department, some students tried to be more understanding while sharing their concerns,
A junior at Coe named Sara Melsha stated,
"I think a lot of online professors have added a significant amount of additional homework in an attempt to make up for not being in-person. But the Derecho also affected classes a lot since colleges were not able to start classes on time. At least locally. So it caused the same amount of learning to be squeezed into an already shortened time frame due to COVID. Overall I'd say the quality of learning even in my in-person classes is much lower this semester."
Many juniors and seniors in the nursing program at Coe have been very outspoken about how unwilling the board and program have been to hear them out. Many students use the word "abandoned."
A junior at Coe in the nursing program named Grace Mouring, who was prepared for a rough year, has reportedly been blindsided by the workload like many of her peers. She stated,
It’s like everyday there’s a new hurdle to jump over, and you have a hundred pounds of weights tied around your ankles, a broken leg, and the hurdle is on fire. But you’re expected to jump over anyway no problem. Of course I understand that no one could have possibly prepared for this, but it is frustrating to know that I am not getting the nursing education I had been looking forward to for the past two years.
Other students spoke about how other programs like theater and performing arts (which allegedly refused to work with students who wouldn't come into class) still refuse to see eye to eye with students.
I received over 200 messages after reaching out on social media to get students to speak about their experiences. We can all agree 2020 has been a stressful year, and that is an understatement. No one is to blame for these challenges but some of the ways the barriers of this year have been handled leave a lot to be desired, especially for college students. With that being said, it is clear that for many young adults the programs at numerous Iowa colleges are falling very short of the expectations the students were hoping to encounter this fall.
Many students cohesively wonder what colleges will do to mend these shortcomings if they are even able to do anything about it at all.