Greater communication makes difficult times easier

By the Unicorner Editorial Board

Times are tough. For all of us. No two situations are alike, so let’s not compare who’s got it worse. By no means does that mean not talking. Quite the opposite: let’s talk. Speak up, because your voice matters. This is democracy at work. We have a responsibility here.

We’ve seen, or heard of, cases where the coronavirus situation was handled terribly. Students complain on Facebook, describe how utterly ridiculous it is that their university did this and that. Instructors complain about the quality of the online sessions, or lack thereof. The newfound, ever-present technical issues often make a bad situation worse. It would seem that there are problems everywhere, so how do we go about damage control? Well, we talk. We’re honest. It’s being a mature professional who cares.

Some people bottle up their complaints, and that’s not a healthy way of dealing with issues. Others, on the other hand, pour it all out, but in the wrong place and at the wrong time. At one university, students were given a list of exercises and required to do as much as they did before the pandemic, despite the limitations. Another university reportedly replaced instructors and changed the schedule; which wouldn’t be bad if it wasn’t for the fact that the students were notified with an invitation to a lecture that was about to start. A case of an instructor not showing up to a lecture also took place. Others complained about not receiving any response to their emails. Constructive criticism can be good, even great, provided that the right people are informed about the issues properly, and in a respectful manner.

By far, the best course of action we’ve observed is the acts of communication. Students often feel forgotten, abandoned. Instructors all too often put out fires with a blindfold on. In the few cases where both sides spoke up, a middle ground was established and those cases are the ones we hear the least complaints about. Why? Because the parties involved know that this is the best available option. If someone feels like there is a better solution that others won’t even consider, they’re bound to be angry. Although, as we said, no two situations are alike. Different cases require different solutions.

Early on, some of our instructors reached out to students and asked about a preferred solution. In one case, it was a task-based approach. Each student received a list of exercises to complete and to send it back to the instructor. In another case, the lecture switched to a text-based form. There were no connection issues, no background audio disruptions or speaking over each other. It does not mean that these are the best solutions for all. It means that people involved chose to take this approach. They talked about it and the choice was theirs to make.

The exams are just around the corner, we know. But for most of us, the uni life does not end after that. New problems will arise, or new old ones will make themselves known. We can make all of our lives easier by communicating properly. Don’t complain anonymously to strangers. Talk with your peers. They’re likely to feel just the same way. Try to come up with a solution together and invite other people involved to join the discussion. It’s simple, but it can achieve wonders.