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The Griffin Editorial 10/28/22: Covid’s continuing consequences

By Patrick Healy

Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Sara Morris spoke to the student Senate this past week and gave The Griffin cause to reflect on some of the lasting effects of the pandemic on Canisius.

For one, Morris discussed the expanded pass-fail options now offered by the college. The ability of students to take courses as pass or fail instead of receiving a letter grade was greatly expanded during the pandemic, particularly during the Spring 2020 semester.

Morris and the college administration gradually reined in the options, but nevertheless it seems a permanent thing that any elective class can be taken pass-fail—and the decision to do so can be made as late as four weeks into the semester. In addition, a student who initially chooses to take that elective class pass-fail can switch to a letter grade later in the semester if they think they will achieve a good grade.

A senator alluded to another effect of Covid when she mentioned that she enjoyed the flexibility of online classes. In response, Dr. Morris reported that she had sparred with parents who don’t want to pay for online classes.

While many students complained in 2020 of the plethora of online classes, some became used to the ability to take classes while in their bedroom or away from campus. The online version was especially attractive for athletes. Yet, prospective students fresh from an online high school experience do not want to drop thousands of dollars to attend a private school.

The balance between online and in-person classes is a thorny issue for the college, because upperclassmen find them better for their busy schedules while new students and their parents want in-person instruction. The Griffin understands the senator’s concern but thinks it would be a handicap for the college were they to

Next, we noticed that Morris took a strong stance on ensuring that professors excuse Covid-induced absences. In response to an undergraduate senator’s anecdote about a friend who came to class sick because a professor would not excuse them, vice president Morris said she was appalled and would talk to the relevant dean.

Morris also alluded to her own experience donning a mask prior to her extensive speaking role at the inauguration in the hope that she would not fall ill. The Griffin was pleased to see her reinforce a culture of voluntary mask-wearing, which we have cited over the past few years as a hope for post-pandemic Canisius and America.

Our third point is that we have never seen the Senate so animated as when Facilities/ITS Liaison Marja’e Johnson mentioned in her weekly report that the college is planning on phasing out desktop computers in the library. Covid forced students to rely even more heavily on their own devices, rendering the college’s computers less relevant.

While USA Advisor Jason Francey noted the college’s “Apps Anywhere” software would allow students to access specialized programs on their own devices, senators were rightly concerned about the transition—especially since it’s apparently already been decided without the Senate’s input. The Griffin feels that the Senate could take a more assertive role here in determining how the college is going to reshape campus as a result of the pandemic.

Finally, we remark on the long-term strategy President Stoute is building. He tasked Dr. Morris with asking the student Senate what they would like to see Canisius keep and discard, respectively, by 2035. While senators offered interesting ideas, we focus here more on Stoute’s timeline. President Demske had “Plan 2000” in the early 1990s. President Hurley oversaw the “Canisius 150” plan prior to the college’s sesquicentennial in 2020.

Stoute cited 2027 in his State of the College as the year when Canisius needs to match revenues to its expenses, and now he uses 2035 to help people imagine what they want for Canisius’s future. The Griffin is interested to see what title (if any) he ultimately settles on—perhaps “Thrive by 2035”—but more importantly what it entails for the college. -PH

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