If You Think College is a Bubble of Equality–YOU’RE in a Bubble

5 May

I listen to podcasts all day (practically) at work, a lot of them news and current events.  Today, one of them was talking about universities having to go online after the coronavirus social distancing restrictions.

A professor was talking about how the college experience puts each student on an equal playing field:  They all live in the dorms, eat the same crummy cafeteria food, and make their own ecosystem in the classroom.  This professor talked about receiving an email from one of her students after distance learning was put in place that broke her heart.

Cut to an interview with the student.  She never thought she would attend college–had really no interest in it until a high school counselor saw her grades.  This adult saw the grades and encouraged the student to apply to a private college.  Because of her economic status and grades this student got a full ride scholarship to attend.  The interviewer asked how that felt.  The response:  Tepid at best (my opinion).  The interviewer asked what she knew about the school at the time she received her full scholarship:  “I Googled it after I got the letter.”  She went to the campus for her Freshman year, even joining the lacrosse team.

So after the university sent everyone home to engage in distance learning, this student writes her professor an email.  I’ll summarize best I can remember (the interviewer had her read the email aloud for the podcast and she cried throughout):

I’m so sorry.  I am not going to be able to finish this assignment on time.  I can’t concentrate.  My parents own a food truck and since the coronavirus hit, they can’t do business.  They’re thinking about applying for a loan, but it’s uncertain.  I might have to help, maybe, but we don’t know yet.  It’s difficult to complete an assignment when it might be for nothing.  I don’t have a desk, and there are distractions here.  I’m sorry.  I feel so guilty.

So that sounds bad.  But there is a list of things I have a problem with:

-She is on a full-ride scholarship!  Most students have to pay for their education.  I (vs. Mommy and Daddy paying) was responsible for funding my own tuition, so I had to take out loans.  Hardly anyone gets a free college experience.

-Her indifference to applying for college, dearth of knowledge about the school, participation in sports, and email asking for an extension really convey to me that school is not this gal’s priority.

-She was economically stable enough to participate in a sport.  And had to balance her studies with a sport.  This is a luxury.  Also, time-management.

-Who the fuck has a desk?!  I never did.  We work from home, and don’t have a desk.  You make it work.  Find a counter.  Balance your computer on a book.  Seriously–is she even trying?  Honestly, I wanted to tell her to put in some earbuds and focus up.

-A call B.S. on this story.  I’m going to go ahead and be cynical.  I’d be willing to bet this is a dramatized version of events (aka sob story) because a deadline was looming.  Nobody wants a bad grade, so a last ditch effort might be firing off an email to get an extension.  I would love to hear from teachers how common sob story emails asking for extensions are (during and prior to coronavirus).

-This gal’s parents might not be able to keep their business going.  But this is hardly a novel situation.  And it’s not new just because of coronavirus either.  Having a savings account is a rarity.  So, so many students come from a background with economic hardships.  And way worse than hers, too.

-I went on Twitter to remind everybody this is not a coronavirus problem, as the podcast let on.  Disparity has always gone on in every educational setting!  This is nothing new.  Every student except your white, middle to upper-class male has hardships and disparities.  I think it’s gross how many commentators were shocked and appalled that coronavirus has created disparities.  As if they haven’t been going on this whole time.  One (of many, many, many) current examples are the admissions scandals.  This has always happened!

-It’s offensive to me that people were wanting this girl’s particular contact info so they could financially help her.  I told a lot of them they should give instead to one of the many organizations that helps struggling students.  Because pre-coronavirus and now there are tons and tons of students facing numerous disparities, and they need help.  And yeah, a lot of them even finish their assignments on time!

 

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