‘Zoom University’ not your thing? Why you shouldn’t be scared to ask your professors for leniency

Illustration of stressed student
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I’m sure that by now, we’re all used to starting emails with “I hope you are well in this uncertain and trying time,” and ending them with “Please stay healthy and safe.” I’ve noticed that these phrases sort of normalized the struggles we’re all facing because they’re used in almost every single email exchange. Personally, quarantine was going OK for me up until last week when life-changing events took place in my family. I decided to just accept the default pass/no pass system for all my classes this semester because I’m truly struggling to even get out of bed some days.

I thought that by sticking to pass/no pass, I would have no trouble finishing this semester. But this week, I just cannot find the motivation to do any work outside of logging into my Zoom lectures. One of the most difficult things for me is reaching out when I really need help. It took me days of internal arguing before I could put my ego aside and email my professor to tell him why my final paper won’t be up to par with my previous work from this semester.

Guess what happened? The world didn’t end, my professor didn’t get mad at me and I’m not going to fail the class. I was pleasantly surprised when my professor told me he could personally relate to my situation and offered me some words of encouragement. After reading his response, I truly feel motivated to finish my work this semester, no matter how tough it’ll be.

It’s important to realize your professors are human too. This pandemic has upturned all of our lives in many distinct ways. Unfortunately, some of us, on top of worrying about catching or spreading COVID-19, have to worry more about our family dynamics or food and housing insecurity. I know a lot of professors understand this, and are compassionate and modifying their classes and expectations during this precarious time.

In very stark contrast, I’ve also seen instances of professors who try to maintain the status quo and normal class rigor amid a global pandemic, but this can have negative impacts on their students’ mental health. Even if you have one of these professors, I still encourage you to email them explaining why you’re struggling.

Now more than ever, we need to advocate for ourselves. Life has been flipped upside down, so holding students to the same expectations established before the pandemic can have incredibly harmful effects. So, if you’re looking for a sign, this is it. Go ahead and email your professor; it’s a grounding experience.

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].