This week was my first week back to (online) classes after Cornell suspended all in-person instruction to provide a transition period for students and faculty as many returned home and prepared for Cornell: Online Edition.
For me, I recognize the privilege I hold in having a place to return to from campus and having healthy, happy family members to return to. I also have a semi-private space to complete my semester studies in, which is also a great blessing.
With that being said, coming back home and doing college has been a little tough to navigate for me --- I had thought it would be just like work from home in high school, but I have come to realize the lifestyle I developed for myself in college was re-shifting in me coming home.
And not only that, being in the books from home and having the motivation to keep up on campus extracurriculars from home is something I struggle to find balance in. Now that I'm in classes again, I have definitely shifted all my attention to school and allowed other things to come second, which brings me peace and worry at the same time.
But the two biggest thing I've been trying to wrap my head around have been connecting with others and connecting with my education. And on those two fronts, I'm surprised that this challenge has been the easiest for me to overcome. I actually feel more motivated to connect with my professors and fellow students, to the point where I attend "optional lectures"/office hours for my classes that record lecture on video rather than do live. Something about being in my own space and the online aspect has encouraged me to raise my had and ask questions and know that I'll be noticed, heard and answered.
Maybe it isn't the fact that education is delivered via screen anymore that makes it easier for some (out of those who are not disproportionately disadvantaged by the prospect of online education and the circumstances surrounding the current pandemic) to choose to disengage. It's the environment, the ability and the willingness.
For me personally, when I think of that ability criteria in particular, my heart aches for the students who require special needs services to receive an equitable education and are hindered from receiving these services to the same capacity and quality due to the lockdown. My heart aches for the immunocompromised students who also have to prioritize their health, safety and even their life over their education in the midst of the pandemic. The same system that underserves these people regularly is the same system whose inaction and failure to plan ahead is negatively impacting.
When I think of my goals to develop robotics for special needs children in the classroom, I used to always imagine a world where the barriers to educational access were just a shortcoming of the system and a lack of understanding. But now, I see it as both of those things, plus an outright failure of leaders to do some perspective taking of the communities they are sworn in to serve and recognizing the harm in failing to plan. And I want to contribute in offsetting that failure with technological assistance and solutions for the affected.
The economy is important, but the people that comprise it are vital to its success. To prioritize the economy over the people keeping it going is to harm both in the long run,
I implore people to join me in remembering those who face real systematic barriers of all forms which are being exacerbated by the consequences of COVID-19 in the midst of our "cabin-fever issues."