Editor's note: This story has been amended to clarify an event change. The referenced upcoming "Talk with President Sabah” on March 10 has been canceled.
On Wednesday, Feb. 2, Western’s President, Sabah Randhawa, hosted an in-person forum in the Viking Union. Students were invited to ‘Join the Conversation,’ ask questions and share their opinions.
The overarching theme for this forum was the ongoing argument regarding class modality. Several students expressed their frustrations with the return to in-person learning.
“I understand how complex it must be, but I think that from a student’s perspective there must be something you can do to make this less scary,” said one student, referring to the anxiety and fear surrounding the return to on-campus learning. “I just want to express that it’s scary to be a student right now.”
Randhawa has been facing backlash due to the lack of communication when it comes to relaying information to the student body.
Western Washington University has switched from online to in-person learning two times this quarter and students are upset.
“After hearing a lot from students and professors alike, I’ve seen a lot of miscommunication between the faculty and the president himself regarding the whole COVID-19 situation,” said another student. “Since you talk a great deal about the quality of our education, how do you go about that when our professors are having to switch their course around three or four times within the span of a few weeks?”
Randhawa expressed that he empathized with this student, agreeing that switching modalities multiple times per quarter does have a negative impact on the quality of one's education.
“For every request that is made saying we should be all online, we’ve had two requests saying that we need to be in person ASAP,” Randhawa said. “I hope we will stay the course if things keep going in the direction they are headed, but I won’t lie to you, I think change of modality has impacted the quality of learning.”
Several members from a newly-formed group, Students for CHOICE, attended the forum as well. They are requesting that the university provides both online and in-person choices for all students.
“I don’t think it’s a wish as much as it is a right to not be forced to be in a position that could put me in a lot of danger,” said another student, who self-identified as a member of Students for Choice. “I think even this form of communication right now and the fact that no Zoom or online option was offered shows that we’re missing a lot of voices.”
This student emphasized that they shouldn’t have to attend an in-person event and put themselves at risk in order for their voice to be heard.
Randhawa reassured students at the end of this forum that he would do his best to improve communication as well as make sure to have a Zoom option for the next meeting. He also urged students to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with further concerns.
The next “Talk with President Sabah” was supposed to be held Thursday, March 10, at 12 p.m. but was canceled. Click here For more information on these events.
Isabella Loy (she/her) is one of two copy editors for The Front this quarter. She's a fourth-year transfer student majoring in news/ed journalism with a concentration in Religious Studies. She has also worked on publications at her community college and at Western's magazine, Klipsun. You can reach her at email@example.com.