In the age of COVID-19, many students’ laptops have become their classrooms. But between mask requirements in buildings and the need for a stable internet connection, many students are struggling to find a place to tune in to their online lectures.
On Aug. 27 an email was sent out by Assistant Provost Ryan Reedy, as the administration tried to take an active approach to issues arising.
“It has come to our attention that some of you are in need of quiet spaces on campus with internet access from which you can attend and participate in synchronous online courses,” Reedy said. In response to this need, Reedy offered to reserve empty classrooms for students to use for online classes.
According to Reedy, a team of four faculty members are working together to identify and reserve spaces for students. As of Sept. 4, Reedy told The University News via email that 16 students had contacted him to reserve space since the Aug. 27 email. He hopes to allocate to these students a space for specific times they request. Reedy also said that the space problem was initially reported to the library.
“Several students visited the library asking for a space to attend their online classes,” Reedy said.
But the library is not a perfect solution for students needing to tune into a class on multiple accounts. Dean of University Libraries Cherie Hohertz explained in an email that the library has limited capacity, which as of yet has not posed a problem, but may in the future.
“Library capacity is currently set at 75 students,” Hohertz wrote. “While that capacity does seem low, we have consistently been running about 45-50 students in the library at peak times.”
Reedy also said that working in the library poses problems for those students taking synchronous online classes.
“The library wasn’t a good option because of noise concerns as well as the need for students to wear masks inside campus buildings,” Reedy explained.
Junior economics and Spanish double major Anna Dittmer said that, in addition to professors asking for their removal during class, masks could interfere with her focus during an online class. “[W]hile I realize they’re 100% necessary, I find masks very distracting.”
However, some parts of the library can still be conducive to students taking synchronous classes, though obviously with mask requirements still in place. Caitlin Oglesbee, a junior working in the library, identified the third floor as a viable option.
“Third floor is still kind of like group study space,” Oglesbee explained. “Socially distant, but like it can be noisy up there, so I guess people who have online classes, they’d be welcome to go up there. But second floor and the periodicals are the designated quiet spots.”
Oglesbee also reported a frequent issue she and others have encountered: WiFi problems. She said that her friend had to do “some gymnastics with finding WiFi.”
Dittmer also reported WiFi issues. After her router was delayed in the mail, and she was placed on a three-day quarantine for a sore throat and a headache, she was forced to use the school WiFi which she could only connect to by sitting outside on the balcony of her student apartment on campus.
Junior Mary Krikowski said that she does not have WiFi in her student apartment, so her solution was to scout around campus for an empty classroom.
Junior Ruth Bennet also reported finding space as “such a problem!!” She has gone outside most class days, trying to avoid the hustle and bustle of the campus, but recent rain has forced her to move inside, where the necessity of masks makes participation difficult.
Students’ issues finding space are not only confined to synchronous online classes. Rosa Venditti, a junior politics major, also reported space issues.
“I have had a problem … finding a quiet individual space. I recently started counseling with the counseling center and there’s really no private spot around campus for me on campus to do that, like I had to kick my roommate out the other day for a whole hour just so I could have the room to myself and have privacy,” said Venditti.
Reedy wrote via email that they are in the process of solidifying space in SB Hall to help students with these issues, providing a quiet, individual space with WiFi.
“Thus far, [when students reach out to find a space] we’ve been identifying empty classrooms for these students to use, but we are in the process of assigning small meeting rooms in SB Hall where students can attend class alone and unmasked in a quiet space with internet access. We hope to have these spaces reserved by early next week,” Reedly said, referring to the “self-service reservation system” he had mentioned in the Aug. 24 email.
The system, which was initially aimed to be established this past week, has not yet gone live.
“[T]o be honest, [this issue is] not one we anticipated,” Hohertz wrote.