Eckerd announced it will continue the rest of spring semester remotely on March 24, and ever since then students have been wondering how the professor that can’t even respond to their email is going to deliver months worth of class content online. 

Because students paid for in-person, one-on-one learning opportunities, a partial tuition refund seems reasonable; it almost seems like that money is owed to us. But there are long-term consequences to Eckerd potentially losing millions of dollars that we should consider before demanding anything back.

One consequence could be furloughing professors, which would temporarily suspend their positions, or even worse: layoffs. “Net student tuition represents about 50% of the College’s budgeted revenue, and faculty and staff compensation (salaries and benefits) represents about 50% of that expense budget,” according to an email to The Current from Chris Brennan, vice president for business and finance. If Eckerd were to give that tuition money back, its roughly $60 million endowment, which is relatively small compared to major colleges, may not be able to support the salaries of all professors. 

Given our educators' hard work, it would be unethical to pay them less; it is not their fault we are facing this crisis. 

Visiting Professor of Literature Sarah Osment states that her biggest challenge right now is “finding ways to extend the sense of community that we’d built in seminars remotely across homes and time zones.” 

Osment, and many other professors like her, are determined to provide quality education in a time when it would be easy to do the bare minimum.

Putting assignments online and holding virtual classes is just as much work as teaching in person, and professors should be paid as such.

Additionally, Eckerd already faced financial struggles in the early 2000s, and I think we should be aware of how the pandemic is already affecting the budget. 

For example, Eckerd has agreed to refund students’ room and board money, according to an email from Eckerd Emergency Alerts on March 24. But if Eckerd was forced to redistribute millions of dollars in tuition in addition to room and board, the school may have to cut operations budgets or lay off workers. 

Students have now been able to experience their routines for the rest of the semester, and I have found that my routine has not deviated too much from what it was on campus. Of course, isolated learning has its downsides, but GoogleMeets, Moodle and Eckerd’s wonderful professors who are willing to meet virtually have made the transition pretty seamless.

Many students assumed that online classes would be an insufficient teaching method, and talk of tuition refunds swirled as students began to pack up and leave campus. But while it may seem unfair, the reality is that we are essentially paying more for a degree than we are for the classes themselves. Since we still get the credits toward our degree from these online classes, a tuition refund is unnecessary and would likely cause detrimental effects to our college in the long run. 

Eckerd students are actually very lucky compared to a lot of students, because our staff members have provided so many accommodations.

According to an email from Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison on March 26, Eckerd’s drop period, and withdrawal period will be extended until May 8. Students may also choose before May 8 whether they want their classes to be assessed based on a Credit/No Credit scale as opposed to the traditional letter grade. 

“Some students will find it difficult to adapt to the new forms of instruction forced upon us all, and unfortunately, COVID-19 will affect some of our students’ families. This is our way of giving students the greatest flexibility we can for the semester,” Harrison told The Current in an email.

This option has offered significant relief to students who are dealing with other stressors during the pandemic and remains an example of Eckerd’s willingness to ensure the well-being of their students. 

Other resources include virtual hours at the Writing Center and Rahall Lab, so students can still get help with presentations and written assignments. Additionally, professors are holding office hours via Google Meets, Zoom and other virtual platforms, and some have even given Eckerd students their personal phone numbers. 

Along with the rest of the Eckerd community, I would love to be back in the St. Petersburg sunshine or watching a South Beach sunset in person instead of tuning into the live stream, but I think it is important to recognize our privilege during this time. As a small, dedicated community, we should acknowledge all of the work our professors and staff are already doing to make this time as easy as possible.

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