A weekly email is not enough

The+entrance+to+Emerson%27s+Walker+Building+on+Boylston+St.+

Media: Jakob Menendez

The entrance to Emerson's Walker Building on Boylston St.

Throughout the summer, Emerson administration has sent students sporadic emails. In June came the announcement that campus would reopen in late August. A few weeks later, updates on tuition and then dining flooded students’ inboxes. And just recently, administrators proliferated a “Back to Campus Guide,” telling students how life back in Boston will truly work

But as the community slowly makes its way back to campus this month, it’s clear those emails are not enough. 

The frequency of the current periodic updates was acceptable in May, June, and even July when most students remained at home, locked away from the threat of the virus. Now we need a daily email or another form of regular briefing to help members of the community consistently understand how the college is operating safely. 

The looming uncertainty about both the virus and the forthcoming semester has left many students and faculty stressed about what life will look like on campus. Some are inevitably experiencing increased anxiety due to financial constraints, health concerns, or job loss. In fact, 31.6 percent of American adults reported symptoms of anxiety in July, compared to the 8.2 percent benchmark from the first six months of 2019, according to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Providing students with detailed and daily communication would help alleviate at least some of this stress. In critical situations like this, honesty and transparency is key to creating an open and trusting environment. But how can the community rely on administration when some feel they’ve been left largely in the dark?

We choose information accessibility

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These daily updates could mend this gap. For one, they could clue students in about what is changing behind the scenes with class assignments, organization budgets, and schedules. And they could continuously update the community about whether the possibility of closing the campus before the fall semester—like a slew of other universities have recently done—is still on the table.

Most urgently though, once COVID-19 testing begins over the next few weeks, everyone should be in the loop about how many tests were administered, how many came back positive, and what administration is doing in response to potential outbreaks—information that could be made easily available in the form of a daily email. In fact, keeping these statistics private would be a violation of the community’s trust in its administration and its right to health and safety. Even the state of Massachusetts publishes the statewide data daily at 4 p.m., which guides changes and keeps the public informed. We urge Emerson to do the same as soon as testing commences. 

On Aug. 10, the college did promise to “publish data from our community’s test results, updated regularly throughout the fall term, on the One Emerson Knowledge Center,” in an announcement.

Members of the community would also benefit at this time from being told the number of cases the college expects to see throughout the semester, thereby allowing students, faculty, parents, and staff to assess the sacrifice and risks ahead of us.

International students are also hurt by the infrequency with which emails are currently being sent. Since leaving campus in March, most have dealt with having limited information from the Office of International Student Affairs about their future of the college. It wasn’t until June 17 that students even received specific information from OISA about returning to campus.

Timely information is critical for these global students, who face unique challenges and must consider how going back to campus affects their immigration status. While most students could contemplate taking a gap semester, international students were unaware if they even had the chance to opt out, as it could hurt their chances of obtaining visa statuses necessary for gaining internships in the country. Others also struggled with travel restrictions, like the one imposed on China, where more than 64 percent of the international student population came from in the 2019-2020 school year, according to the college’s fact-book

Understandably, this is a stressful time for the Emerson community. The college has without a doubt been under scrutiny and pressure about the fall semester for months. However, addressing these student and faculty concerns is vital for the student body to effectively keep themselves and those around them safe. Classes resume in less than a month, and questions about campus facilities, resources, and life on campus will continue to arise.

Now is the time to prioritize regular communication. Now is the time to promote transparency. And now is the time to unite the entire Emerson community as we go into what is likely one of the most uncertain semesters in history.

The Berkeley Beacon Editorial Board is the voice of the student newspaper that looks to serve the Emerson College community with thoughtful insight into ongoings and occurrences affecting their everyday lives. The board’s positions are determined by its members. The board consists of the editor-in-chief, managing editors, and opinion editors. The opinions expressed by the Editorial Board do not impact the paper’s coverage. You can respond to a position brought forward by The Beacon Editorial Board in the form of a Letter to The Editor by email: [email protected].