Coming to Wesleyan as a first-year was enough of a challenge in and of itself. But having to do it in the midst of a global pandemic added an entirely new layer of difficulty. Not only was I returning to an on-campus environment after 18 months of virtual school and moving 3,000 miles away from home, I also had to make new friends in a time where being social doesn’t always mean being safe. I thought that this, along with getting tested twice a week, would be the most that I would have to deal with as I began my Wesleyan journey. I was wrong.
On Arrival Day and throughout orientation, I could see that I was only scheduled to take three out of the four classes that I had hoped to be enrolled in. I knew that this was common, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I honestly thought that the system just needed more time to process my requests. I took advice from my orientation leaders and emailed the professors teaching the courses that I wanted to take, asking them if I could sit in on a class. The “Beginning American Sign Language I” professor allowed me to do so under the condition that I did it “safely” and stuck to COVID-19 guidelines. However, I wasn’t as lucky when it came to an American Government and Politics class. I was simply told by the professor that it wouldn’t be possible for me to attend due to uncertainties over how much physical space there would be in the classroom. Knowing the circumstances, I understood this response, and, as it turns out, other people had it much worse.
A friend of mine told me how in one of their classes unenrolled students had been asked to leave the room once students who had initially been accepted into the class arrived. Even when previously accepted students turned up late to class, those currently unenrolled were still forced to leave, despite their demonstrated eagerness to be part of the course. I believe that these students suffered more than I did; I was simply told not to show up to my government class, while other students were allowed to experience a class for a few fleeting moments before essentially being kicked out.
I was fortunate enough to be let into the sign language class, and yet I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t turned up. I probably would have ended up choosing my fourth class based only on the course description, knowing nothing of the professor or the actual rigor of the course, an experience that I’m sure at least some Wesleyan students have had. The Drop/Add period is supposed to allow us to explore classes so that we can figure out which ones are right for us and which ones we’re better off not taking. But if we can’t actually attend the class, then how are we expected to make these decisions?
In addition to this, if students end up taking a class that they have never experienced, this may leave them with up to two weeks’ worth of material waiting to be caught up on. For me, this is the worst-case scenario: I end up choosing a class that I have not been able to attend, only to find that I neither enjoy the subject, the professor, nor the class environment. Oh, and to top it all off, the Drop/Add period ends before I have any time to resolve these problems. Even though most of the students and faculty are fully vaccinated, Wesleyan’s testing policy will continue until further notice. It’s also likely that weekly testing, as well as social distancing rules, will remain in place for the foreseeable future. What this means is that for as long as COVID-19 continues to infiltrate our daily lives, the Drop/Add period will also continue to be a confusing, stressful, and complex process for many Wesleyan students.
With this in mind, I believe that it is unfair to ask students with incomplete schedules to commit to courses without providing them with the means to make informed decisions about the kind of classes they wish to take. Additionally, it can’t help but seem somewhat hypocritical of Wesleyan to enforce social distancing in classrooms when Usdan is often packed during mealtimes with many more students, some of whom do not wear masks correctly. Considering that twice-weekly testing is required across students, staff, and faculty, is it really too much to have unenrolled students sit in on classes for two weeks, at most? Personally, I think not. With this semester’s Drop/Add period coming to an end, I am curious to see what’s in store for all of us this January.
Josh Ehrlich can be reached at email@example.com.