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Opinion

Are Siena’s Post-Pandemic Academic Measures Adequate?

The past year and a half of academics across the country (and even the world) have been nothing short of confusing. Teachers have had to scramble to switch learning procedures, administrators have had to adjust to new ways of communication and implementation and students have had to juggle the new norms of academic life. For everyone, it’s been a weird journey. Every school has adjusted to a “new normal,” whether that be offering online programs, issuing mask and vaccination mandates and/or creating hybrid approaches. Siena has taken a strong stance on what they set as their academic plan, which can be good and bad in different ways.

Siena brought back a majority of in-person classes, which are structured exactly as they were before the pandemic. The idea of social distancing has been done away with in many instances, with many courses allowing hands-on experiences once again. It feels good to be able to sit at a table with people again, without the regulation of six feet apart! Although it has been a bit of an adjustment to get back into an in-person structure, it feels great to be back.

Siena has brought back a majority of the in-person classes however, there are still options for those who enjoy online and hybrid courses. I tend to enjoy general education courses online; subjects such as History, English, Religion, etc. tend to be more enjoyable when taken online (in my opinion). Siena has made this preference easy to fulfill with these general courses. More complicated courses, such as 300 and 400 level classes, tend to just be offered in-person, which is completely understandable; with these courses, there tends to be a necessity for higher participation and focus. Still, Siena has made it a choice to have some online and hybrid courses, even though they technically don’t have to. 

Going back to learning in a classroom setting can be hard, but the Siena faculty make sure that you are supported as much as possible post-pandemic. The Siena faculty, as a whole, has been known to be very supportive of their students; this has not changed because of the pandemic. In fact, it seems that they’re more supportive this time around (at least, from what I’ve observed). Professors understand that readjusting ourselves back to on-campus life can be challenging, so they have continued to adapt to an online world. Some professors even offer hybrid structures, where things such as assignments, exams and discussions can be done online, even when you have in-person instruction.

Not only did Siena change and alter a few operations, but they are now constantly asking for input from students. The pandemic showcased flaws in many institutions, and Siena did not avoid that. Just recently, Siena has taken the initiative to get student opinions on things such as class schedule preferences, hybrid and online learning, hands-on learning experiences and the possibility of having weekend classes. Siena College is looking to adjust its operations to the liking of the students, which brings flexibility to its academic plan. Though these may be changes that occur further in the future, it still shows that Siena cares about our preferences in academic styles.

We can’t just talk about strictly academics, we also have to talk about things that may affect academics as well. In the case of post-pandemic life, the debates of vaccination, masking, quarantine and surveillance testing constantly come into play. These factors—depending on how a school decides to approach them—can greatly impact how a campus operates. In the case of Siena, they have chosen an approach that requires full vaccinations with no masking, testing or quarantine in most cases. If you are exposed to COVID-19, you are asked to wear a mask until you are tested (and given a negative test result). To some, this could be controversial on many levels, but it does bring us to a somewhat normal position on campus. We are fortunate enough to be able to not enforce a mask mandate, due to our high levels of vaccinations. I do enjoy this, however, I also think there should also be a testing process involved. While I do feel generally safe when walking on campus, there is always the chance that someone is walking around with COVID-19, without them even knowing it. Although this is a chance that everyone takes, it is sometimes better to be safe than sorry. Even though I have this belief, there are always places that you can get tested for COVID-19 if you also feel this way!

When stepping foot on Siena’s campus post-pandemic, it feels almost the same as it did before Covid hit. Students are able to learn how they want, professors are happy to be back and the administration is ready to hear feedback from all of us. Thankfully, Siena took a thoughtful approach when implementing the new academic procedures on campus. Despite the fact that these protocols may be confusing at times and have the occasional flaw, the freedom we have will assist us in getting the education of a lifetime.

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