Coming back from winter break to, in some cases, entirely virtual classes has caused a wide range of reactions from Sternies. Some are all for remote learning, some are entirely against it and others would like a hybrid option. Mixed feelings, such as the frustration of not being able to meet with our peers and professors, and relief over reducing the risk of exposure to Omicron, abound. One thing is clear though, we all want to be with those we have forged special connections with in a safe environment and in a way that enhances the Stern experience, not only for current MBA students but also for future generations.
Some Sternies believe that remote learning has interrupted students’ Stern experience, both inside and outside the classroom, and has affected our overall happiness. Especially when it comes to gathering for extracurricular activities, such as club meetings. One student expressed frustration with Stern for not making more of an effort to fight incredibly harsh NYU policies, stating “Rules have barely changed pre- and post-vaccine (we’re all boosted and most of us have had COVID!). They’re rooted in a fear of institutional liability rather than relying on reasonable and logical public health guidelines.” We just need to learn how to live with COVID and normalize it like the flu, instead of piling on more restrictions.
Some are disappointed with Stern’s lack of effort when it comes to maintaining a sense of community and fun, two things that would otherwise be present in a normal, non-pandemic student life. A well-rounded business school experience doesn’t just involve the education you receive, it also includes being able to look back at the friendships you’ve made and the way you spent your time on campus, both which have been interrupted and are disjointed. Of course, it’s also up to everyone to craft the experience they want, but it can be hard to maintain club participation in a remote environment. As one club president puts it, “MBA1 AVPs are less involved and interested in spending their free time investing in clubs since there are no social treks, no physical spaces to gather and no speakers.” Orientation, a significant event designed to allow you to spark relationships with your new colleagues and professors, went virtual, deeply disappointing an MBA1.
On the other hand, some students are okay with a totally remote learning experience. When asked about how he feels about the current state of the pandemic and the virtual classroom, one student stated, “I’m comfortable with all activities taking place virtually until society is in a place where we can be semi-remote.” For some, outside activities aren’t as important. Believe it or not, there is an upside to remote learning. One Stern student weighed in and commented, “Just like private school students who wear the same thing every day, with remote learning you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing all the time.” In that way, there is more of a focus on learning and people are free to relax in their own environment and come and go as they please. That takes some of the pressure off of trying to maintain your focus for long periods of time. Although from a professor’s point of view and mine as well, it can be difficult to participate and solicit participation on Zoom.
The hybrid format is a topic of hot debate, as that would allow people who have concerns about attending in person to have the option to be remote, but all in-person activities (both essential and non-essential) could still happen for those who want to be around people. It’s really important to include a remote option for those who don’t feel comfortable attending all classes in-person. People can still pursue their degree and feel that their health is protected. Bottom line: going forward, figure out a hybrid model that works and stick with it. People should be free to do whatever it is they want to do, but give us all the options in a safe manner.
Hopefully, Stern figures out a hybrid plan that allows those who want to be in-person to be in-person for good, because as one student remarked, “Remote sucks. Pretty bums TBH!”