Open letter to the faculty of Canisius College regarding the Fall 2020 experience

By Patrick Eugeni, Claire Rosenecker, James Garvey, Justin Brown, USA E-Board

  1. PURPOSE

The mission statement of the Canisius College Undergraduate Student Association (USA) is to be “A committed and inclusive voice advocating for and standing with the Canisius undergraduate community.” Since its genesis, USA has worked on numerous capital projects, provided student programming and engaged in conversations with personnel all across campus in order to provide the best student experience possible. Due to the ongoing pandemic and the changes that are necessitated to go along with it, nearly all of the feedback from students have been in relation to the aforementioned changes.

This open letter from the USA to the college faculty serves to convey student feedback that was collected via a Google Form survey that was put out by the USA during the final weeks of the fall 2020 semester. The survey posed open-ended questions to the students so that they were allowed to highlight their successes & challenges for the past semester and ways that the USA can advocate for them moving forward. Amongst the areas addressed by student responses were dining, residence hall living, programming, and academics.

The relationship between students and faculty is integral to the college experience. Faculty members often will see potential within students and help foster those students so that they can fully realize that potential. It is through this letter that we hope to work together in order to continue to create the best student experience possible. USA recognizes and deeply appreciates all of the hard work that the faculty has done this past semester.

  1. SUMMARY

The following paragraphs of this open letter address three common areas that students expressed in the letter when prompted to discuss their successes and shortcomings of the fall 2020 semester. These three areas are streamlining work and information onto D2L, recording lectures for viewing by students, and relationship between students and faculty members.

Each outlined area includes a selection of relevant quotes from students.

  1. AREA 1: Streamlining onto D2L

A common sentiment shared across many of the students who completed the survey was the need for consistency in where course materials are posted. Having materials for all classes on the same site would help students stay more organized and decrease the likelihood that students accidentally miss assignments. Below are some of the comments made by students:

  • “It’s very hard to keep track of everything because assignments and content is posted on D2L (under news, dropbox, or class content), on their own websites, via emails, in Google drives, and on class material sites (like a site w/an e-textbook for ex). We spend way too much time just trying to navigate what each teacher is doing and find out what our homework is and when it’s due.”
  • “Professors have not been sticking to a single platform such as D2L, but instead have us searching through emails, blog posts, websites, google classroom, google drives, and elsewhere to find our content for the semester. We are all struggling so much to find what assignments we even have due.”
  1. AREA 2: Recorded Lectures

This past semester, many professors chose to record their lectures and post them to D2L. Canisius undergraduate students expressed their appreciation for this effort, and hope to see this continue in the future due to the various benefits it provides. Below are some examples of the shared sentiment by many students:

  • “I like how my instructors recorded all lectures for flexibility.”
  • “Some of the online stuff was helpful, such as professors posting videos on D2L to keep referring to.”
  • “Watching lectures online makes them easier to understand and rewatch if needed.”

Students noted, however, that they still valued the “live” aspect of online lectures. For example, one student states: 

  • “If classes are online, the scheduling of zoom classes or lectures being done at a specific time each day, rather than the professor recording lectures and then uploading them to D2L for us to watch later.”

With this, it is encouraged that professors continue to record their lectures and make them accessible to students on D2L. Students found this to be a helpful resource when studying difficult material for quizzes and exams.

AREA 3: Student Connection with Professors

Canisius is in such a unique position to form deep bonds between students and faculty due to the smaller class sizes. This is something that many members of the Canisius student body value and enjoy having at Canisius. It is clear that due to the current climate, it is difficult to form general relationships via a screen. However, students had mentioned in the survey the deep appreciation that they have for their professors and their willingness to go the above and beyond:

  • Wonderful professors- excellent communication about class in general and regarding changes due to covid- definitely had the students’ best interest in mind!”
  • “My professors were awesome and super understanding of the stress we’re all going through this semester.”
  • “I’m glad professors understood that we were confused as much as them adjusting to the new way of learning.”
  • “The flexibility of the professors.”

It is from these comments and others like it that it became clear to us as a body that the connection between students and faculty is of the utmost importance now more than ever. We recognize the collective struggle that all people are enduring right now. Students that feel seen by their professors and that are still capable of connecting with them in a meaningful way has left a lasting impact after this semester. We extend our deep gratitude for the faculty going the extra mile and hope that members of the faculty continue watching out for the students and continue their compassion & understanding with deadlines, work and other aspects of this upcoming academic semester. 

VI: Conclusion

We, as the USA, recognize and appreciate all of the hard work and time from the faculty that was put into planning and executing the new modes of learning for the fall 2020 semester. It was surely new for all people involved, not just the students. Going forward, we hope to maintain a positive and effective relationship with the faculty so that we may continue to work together to provide the best possible student experience and continue to provide a learning environment that will foster people for and with others, both inside and out of the classroom.

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