Students, Faculty Anticipate Holding Class Againby Omar Maglalang and Tricia Sangalang
News Staff Writers
April 20, 2007
Virginia Tech students have questions and some apprehension about the resumption of classes Monday. Others are eager to rejoin their groups and meet again.
First, there‘s the calendar. The last day of classes ends May 2, and final exams begin on May 4.
After indication by University Provost Mark McNamee of a plan allowing students to decide, with reason, how to finish the spring term, students as well as faculty expressed their anxieties towards the first day of class since the horrific events of April 16.
Like many Virginia Tech students, Ryan Anthony, a junior majoring in wood science and forestry products, will attend his classes on Monday. He has four classes, including engineering economy, the class where he learned about the Norris Hall and West Ambler-Johnston shootings Monday. He also takes wood chemistry, wood science and forestry products and also, packaging.
“I don’t think I’ll be uneasy about going to class on Monday,” Anthony said. “I’ve always thought of [Tech] to be probably the safest campus in the world for me.”
Gail Senatore, a sophomore majoring in agricultural science, felt that some students might feel perturbed to go back to their class for the first time after the horrific events. This would be especially true for students who knew any of the deceased victims.
“It’s going to be hard to adjust for some,” she said. “They’re not going to see some of their classmates in class anymore.”
Senatore has three classes on Monday: macroeconomics and microeconomics for agricultural science, and astronomy. She figured her professors would include some type of open forum in her classes to discuss what happened the week before.
“I’m thinking it’s going to be a big class forum with lots of discussion,” she said. “I really don’t think anything is going to happen [academically].”
Ben Kelley, a sophomore majoring in theatre arts, joked that his teachers will actually start lecturing.
On the other hand, Anthony wasn’t quite sure what his professors would do for his classes on Monday.
“I’m thinking maybe a moment of silence,” he said. “But I think professors are going to plan things on their own terms.”
According to Senatore, the first day is going to be awkward for a lot of students, but she noted that it was a better decision to start on Monday than later on in the month or week. She felt that it would allow for a better transition back to academic life and a return to a sense of normalcy for the community.
“Teachers have to understand that people aren’t going to be the same as they were before, though,” Anthony said. “It’s going to be a lot quieter now.”
In light of students’ concerns, however, several faculty and staff have prepared for Monday’s classes. But even with planning, some faculty members discussed that “flexibility” will be the key theme of most classes: flexibility in assigning grades, flexibility in determining class schedules, and flexibility in implementing course work.
This came about as a response to McNamee’s statement Thursday, which implemented three options for students to complete the semester.Students will have the option of requesting their semester grade be based on the following three options:
- Materials submitted prior to April 16,
- Submitted material plus any other material the student wishes to submit for a grade, and
- Material submitted prior to completion of the course
Faculty members will take a class-based approach in implementing these policies.
They want to cater to the needs of individuals first. Then, collectively, they will act according to the needs of the students, whether these are emotional needs or academic needs.
One such example is Patricia Lavender, professor in the theatre arts department, who sent an e-mail to her arts marketing students Wednesday morning informing them of her plans for class on Monday. Even prior to the university’s announcement of how the remainder of the semester will unravel, Lavender proposed an open discussion and provided students the opportunity to decide for themselves how they wanted to finish the class.
In her e-mail, she stated, “We will make whatever adjustments are necessary and reasonable ... (I am) more concerned to be fair to each of you in what you need at this difficult time.”
She reiterated this outlook in response to McNamee’s statement.
“(Our) primary concern is for students and students’ needs,” she said. “This requires flexibility. Some will feel better if they complete the course as scheduled. Others will find it difficult to focus.”
Margaret Gaines, a sociology instructor, voiced her concern for her social organizational problems class in an e-mail as well on Wednesday afternoon. She also attached an article from the American Psychological Association to her students suggesting ways to deal with distress in the aftermath of Monday’s events.
In response to how she will conduct class next week, she said, “In making my decision, I’m trying to remain mindful that different people grieve in different ways.”
Gaines indicated the sociology faculty scheduled a meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the information McNamee addressed in his statement, indicated first during a morning press conference.
Donald Wood, a communication instructor, also voiced similar concerns for his Media Institutions students in an e-mail, encouraging each student to “touch base” with him.
“I am prepared to do business as usual if the students want to,” he said. “There is no attempt to be evasive, but we are being counseled to be considerate of the need of all to grieve. I have not revealed a plan because, to be honest, no one was completely sure of how to wrap up the semester.”