First Day of Classes, Hand Sanitizers

A near-empty hallway, normally packed with students during the change between classes, is equipped with hand sanitizing stations outside of each classroom in the Thomas Building on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

From the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 when everyone was sent home for the semester, a single echoing sentiment was expressed by most Penn State students: “Bring back in-person classes.”

It seemed like a fair enough request. Students far and wide preached that they learn better in the classroom and struggle to pay attention over Zoom. When news started trickling in that the university, like many others, was transitioning back to in-person classes, students were ecstatic.

You would assume that this semester, students would be packing the classroom for the entire duration of the class. Well, that’s how it was — for about a week.

It is only week three and my classroom mindset has switched from “where can I find a seat,” to “this is a lot of legroom.”

With every subsequent session of a class I attend, the number of peers in the room dwindles. Students wanted to be back in the classroom, but the question I am left with is, why the drop in attendance?

Was the plan just to take a picture of themselves sitting in class for their Snapchat story then show up again at the final? Is the mask for 50 minutes too much to handle? Did they forget where the class was?

It would be understandable if these were 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. classes and the professor recorded the lectures or allowed students to Zoom in, but I have been noticing this in my noon and afternoon classes.

Of course, students may have other commitments such as a job or work for another class, but with the drop in attendance noticed, I can’t see that being the case for all.

If you are going to spend a year and a half begging for something and complaining every time it doesn't happen, at the very least follow through when you get what you “want.”

Perhaps this was just another case of people needing something to complain about and somewhere to direct their anger. For all the fuss that was made, it is the students responsibility to show up to class and not waste their professors’ time.

I have noticed this drop off in attendance in my two previous fully in-person semesters, but never in the third week.

It is a possibility that students are realizing how convenient virtual or asynchronous classes are and have opted to go about their schooling that way for as long as it is an option. It’s their money, and they can make whatever decisions they want about going to class or not — I just urge students to consider their options more carefully before complaining.

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