It is, without doubt, impossible to achieve perfect equity within distinct systems and individualized circumstances. As CA’s hybrid students returned to campus for STAC 2, the dilemma of seeking a compromise between different treatments of in-person and virtual students became increasingly evident. Yet, my first day of in-person classes has made me think otherwise. Despite certain unequal facets of the new system, the current school operations have in fact abridged substantial inequalities I thought would occur between hybrid and virtual students.
The first factor that contributed to this surprising result is the fact that despite their physical presence in the classroom, most in-person students still use Zoom to take their classes. At least for me, Zoom is still an integral part of my courses, since it functions as the primary means of communication between teachers, classmates, and myself. During one of my classes, my teacher taught indirectly from their office, and both hybrid and virtual students used Zoom to communicate with each other.
However, this is not to say the two experiences do not differ by much. One unequal aspect was the audio system of the large computer device placed in each classroom, which proved to be ineffective in certain cases. From my experience, many teachers struggled with the dilemma of using multiple audio systems—if we were to turn off the large computer completely, in-person students would experience echoes; if the device was kept on, remote students were sometimes unable to hear those in the classroom clearly.
There are also emotional and psychological ramifications of being physically away from other students, and the loss of space and localization—not being able to stroll around the Quad, sit in a classroom, or walk through the StuFac— is frustrating. As a fortunate boarding piloteer, I found it restorative to be able to return physically to the CA community. Though the occupied dorm rooms in each house are spaced out, and many boarding students have either not arrived or chose not to return to campus, the emptiness and silence did little to diminish this space’s familiarity. Overall, this experience served as a constant reminder that there are connections and unity beyond the concrete walls.
It is unlikely that restrictions such as face masks and social-distancing will ease significantly in the spring. As we learn more from the ongoing pilot program and prepare for the next stage of reopening, we can only keep seeking for agreement and unity between our physically fragmented community.