Disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic deserve transparency

College officials announced Tuesday that the school will transition to classes online for the rest of the semester due to the global spread of COVID-19. Emerson is among a list of local colleges including Northeastern University, Harvard University, and Suffolk University that have made similar decisions.  

An update email sent by President M. Lee Pelton said March 13 will be the last day of in-person classes at the Boston campus. The college will begin the process to transition to online classes during the following week,and all classes will resume remotely beginning on March 23. The email also said that students will have the option to leave or stay on campus until the conclusion of the spring term. 

The school’s decision in moving classes online is justifiable, as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared astate of emergency on Tuesday. COVID-19 cases in the state rose to 95 as of March 11 and the World Health Organization announced that the spread of COVID-19 has researched a pandemic. 

Emerson College’s decision to transition to online classes takes all the necessary steps to keep students, faculty, and staff members under the best health possible. However, college officials need to communicate daily with the community and inform them about further plans.

The school has taken some actions toward supporting students and staff during this time of confusion. They created a new website dedicated to answering frequently asked questions about the virus and listed resources for support. They’re also posting all correspondence with students and staff on Emerson Today. For more specific questions, people can email [email protected]. International Student Affairs also emailed students Wednesday with information regarding student F-1 Visa status, internships, limitations on online classes, and travel restrictions. All of these steps are essential towards preventing anxiety within the Emerson community, and we commend them for doing so.

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With that being said, many questions still remain unanswered. Will the Equipment Distribution Center remain open? How can production classes continue without equipment? Will students with on-campus jobs continue working, especially those with federal work-study? How can performing arts classes transition virtually? Will the commencement ceremony be affected? If international students go home now, will they be able to return in the fall? How will the school support faculties who have no online class experiences before?

These questions have a significant impact on students’ wellbeing, and the fact they still remain unanswered is concerning. Although Pelton claimed in his Tuesday message to continue communicating with students, he has not sent a follow-up email since then. Teachers in classes are confused as the students, wondering how they could move their classes online and how to provide the best learning experience for their students.

We understand that a lot of the questions students and faculties have cannot be answered by a single person or department, and that the school is still in the process of deciding what to do. We also understand moving classes online is a hard decision for Emerson, even if so many other schools in Massachusetts across the country are doing the same thing. This is unprecedented, and the school administration, different departments around campus, staff, and professors need time to work together to figure out how to move forward as a campus. This is challenging, especially because many classes require equipment, gear, and physical spaces for them to take place, and the fact that there is simply not enough data and governmental announcements to base decisions on. 

These challenges make clear and open communication especially important now. Students, faculties, and staff need to feel supported and included, and the more information the school can provide, the more smooth the transition will be. Even if there are questions that the school administration does not have answers to, it is better to acknowledge the questions rather than not mentioning them at all. The school made a difficult decision, and everyone is in this together. 

In this time of uncertainty, more communication and transparency from the school administration will build more trust among the Emerson community so we can work together through this hard time.

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