Poor communication once again forces at-risk students into impossible choice

By Kristen DeHaven | Contributor

Baylor’s administration sets the tone for how we treat those at a high risk for COVID-19 on campus. Minimal communication and persistent unanswered questions have left these students overlooked, disregarded and alone.

Coming back to campus this fall, many students and faculty were under the impression that any high-risk student who requested a fully online schedule was granted that request. This was not the case.

Not all courses at Baylor are offered in a variety of platforms and online availability varies greatly between majors. Because of this, many immunocompromised students are unable to attain fully online schedules.

Last semester, students who needed to enroll in even just one in-person class were denied help accessing online sections for any of their other courses.

I know this because I was one of those students.

Leading up to the start of the fall semester, I contacted countless Baylor offices searching for information on how to access online courses. For students like me, this isn’t a preference – it’s a major health concern.

Staff members were transparent with me, telling me that they did not know. They did not know immunocompromised students were being denied online schedules, and they did not know who to contact to resolve the issue.

I appreciated their transparency, but after speaking with countless staff members, including deans of some departments, and still having no resolution, I was honestly frustrated. I was upset that the staff members were given no further instructions than to tell me to drop my courses and put my name on online course waitlists.

I was furious that the communication between Baylor administration and staff was seemingly nonexistent regarding an issue that could cost students their lives.

Applications for fully online schedules for the spring semester opened earlier this month, and they close on Oct. 30. When filling out the Spring 2021 Online Schedule Request Form, students must agree to a statement before submitting the request.

This statement reads, “I understand and agree that I am requesting a Fully Online Schedule for the Spring 2021 semester. I also understand and agree that, if approved, I will only be eligible for online classes. If a fully online schedule is not possible, due to class availability or requirements of my degree, it may become necessary for me to cancel this request. Further, if I cancel this request or add an in-person class to my schedule, I acknowledge that I will be subject to any associated housing/dining costs and that I may be dropped from my online course selections to make room for other students who are requesting a Fully Online Schedule.”

Students must agree that if they add an in-person class to their schedule they may be dropped from their online course sections. This might be a fair agreement if Baylor were offering an online option for every course offered. However, they are not.

As a student far enough along in my degree plan that I must take very specific courses in order to graduate on time – some being courses that are not offered online – I was extremely concerned to read this statement.

After speaking with multiple staff members, yet again, none were able to confirm or deny whether my online classes will be put in jeopardy by the in-person classes that I must also register for.

The reality of living with a dysfunctional body is that it becomes your full-time job to take care of your body and to keep yourself alive. During a pandemic, it takes additional work to achieve these things. I believe that Baylor is trying to support high-risk students during this time, but with such poor communication it is difficult to feel prioritized.

I beg that moving forward, Baylor administration provides more clear communication regarding guidelines for high-risk students and improves the options available to us. It is not a matter of stubbornness or privilege – students should not have to risk their lives to obtain an education from Baylor.