UC Riverside students continue to hold a mixed reaction toward the transition to in-person instruction. Students still hold many concerns with how this transition is being handled. The group, “UCR Students for a Safer Return to Campus,” has allowed students to voice these concerns and advocate for better accommodations for UCR students, notably the implementation of hybrid options.
Wyntyr Jaslyn, a senior in Education Society and Human Development, voiced their strong support for hybrid options and accessibility for all, noting the difficulties that certain students may have in accessing resources, especially those with disabilities and those living outside of Riverside County. “Keep access open, accommodations in place if we have these compassionate clauses. If they make the classroom accessible for the disadvantaged student, all students can succeed with more equity to access,” Jasyln expressed.
Jaslyn suggested that mandatory recordings be made via professors through services such as Zoom, Yuja or even Otter.ai transcription services. “I want and advocate hybrid options from here out because we have this tech and these accommodations. This has been requested for years,” the student explained. “This is something that has to be provided by request for students with disabilities, so what harm comes from recording all courses so if a commuting student experienced a vehicle emergency, they can sign in via the Zoom hybrid or access the recording they missed?”
Other students have similarly voiced their support in making it so students have access to hybrid or remote options, or transcripts and recordings after the class. A student in the UCR Students for a Safe Return to Campus Discord commented, “Having the option of getting the lectures recorded and available for certain period of time in the instances that the student can’t attend the class in person with limitations of how many they can miss and opt for the online version seems like a good balance.” The student further described how other universities like UCLA had recordings available for graduate students even prior to the pandemic.
The movement has garnered substantial support with the Discord server, which has over 300 students and a change.org petition that has been signed by nearly 6,900 people. Organizers and supporters of the movement have also made progress in the past month through getting in touch with the UCR administration.
On Feb. 9, a Q&A session was hosted by UCR Vice Chancellor Brian Haynes and Associate Provost Dr. Ken Baerenklau during ASUCR’s 14th senate meeting. This session was held in resolution in support of more remote learning options and saw the vice chancellor and associate provost address the senate and students’ concerns about returning to campus. Haynes explained that “safety, access and accessibility” are three principals UCR adopted during the pandemic and noted current statistics of COVID-19 on campus, detailing how 97% of students and 88% of staff are vaccinated.
AP Baerenklau also noted the greater number of testing sites and flexibility on campus, while also ensuring the senate and students that the campus will not go into another full closure in the event of an outbreak. Bryce Hill, an organizer and administrator of the UCR Students for a Safe Return to Campus group, was also present and expressed his concerns to the present administration.
Following this meeting, Hill and CHASS Senator Victoria Nguyen met with VCSA Haynes and Dr. Baerenklau on Feb. 11 to discuss further steps. They decided to reach out to the Academic Senate to obtain a public statement that discussed professors’ flexibility in choosing which learning method they would want to teach their class. The Academic Senate responded on Feb. 17, and the statement was released on Feb. 18 and included the flexibility for professors to decide between hybrid or online.
Senator Nguyen ensured that consistent communication is held between the group and the administration. She appreciated the efforts of the group and her involvement with this cause, expressing that, “It has been a true honor of mine to work alongside such a passionate group of students and I am happy to have been able to put Bryce in contact with administration. It is the true goal of ASUCR to be the voice and link between students and administration. ” Hill requested a second follow-up meeting on Feb. 22, and this meeting will take place with Dr. Baerenklau on March 3.
All involved in the group and the movement are hopeful to see further progress made in accommodating students and implementing hybrid options. Jaslyn explained, “We are about the education of students, access to knowledge and greater learning overall as an institution. If it was mandated that hybrid options have to be available it would be a huge leap in access and education.”