C/O Yoohyun Park

Turns out, we’re not all in this together

By: Hadeeqa Aziz, Contributor

cw: mentions of Islamophobia, racism, and violence against minority groups  

From our Wi-Fi routers working overtime to keep up with multiple Microsoft Teams calls running, to accidentally disclosing our not-so-pleasant thoughts about a class over unmuted microphones. The pandemic has definitely proven to be a difficult transition. With that, most of us have been striving to transform our new-found schedules into well-oiled machines over the past year and a half. 

The pandemic has been hard on everyone and adjusting to the “new normal” has embedded itself in our conversations as a catch-phrase of sorts. The transition has especially proved difficult for university students, who now have to navigate through remote learning in addition to managing their regular course loads. 

Nonetheless, we’re all in this together, right? Or better yet, “we’re in the same boat,” aren’t we? This is where most are mistaken.

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that for most problems that are seemingly shared among everyone, they are highly discriminatory in how they choose their victims and to what extent.

The issues faced by students during online learning are no exception.

Although most students have continued their studies from the comfort of their at-home learning environments, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all of them. An article by The Harvard Gazette noted that online-learning has been particularly challenging for first-generation, low-income students, especially those of colour. In addition to fighting against long term battles of inequality, these individuals find themselves more vulnerable to psychological issues as well. 

The factors contributing to increased mental health concerns for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour students and those belonging to marginalized communities are intersectional in nature.

Whether they may be financial hardships, healthcare issues, or social justice concerns, the problems that these students face build upon each other. This dramatically magnifies the otherwise “normal” problems that the pandemic has brought upon students. 

For instance, first-generation BIPOC students may be deprived of the right to receive adequate education from professional institutions to the same extent as their other tuition-paying counterparts. These students are more likely to experience financial hardships, as they may not have generational wealth to rely on. 

An online shift has meant a heavier reliance on suitable devices, stronger internet connections and a greater need for sufficient study atmospheres outside of the classroom and lecture halls. Whether we’re inclined to admit it or not, the new system favours those who are financially stable and have means to access study tools and resources that would allow them to better excel in their classes. 

Financial burdens can also result in an inability to carry out COVID safety measures to a comfortable extent. While most long-term stable-paying jobs were able to shift online during case-peak times, small businesses and most minimum-wage jobs required in-person interactions. Factors like these resulted in increased COVID-19 cases among such communities, leading to illness concerns for students residing in these areas. 

See how everything keeps building on top of the other? And there’s still more. 

A conversation about the intersectionality of it all cannot be discussed without addressing the underlying racial injustices that are the ultimate rooting problem. Let’s talk about the longstanding racial trauma that these students have to face. In the last year or so, Black students quite literally fought for their lives, Muslim students begged for safety against violence, Indigenous students fought to simply be acknowledged and various other racial and ethnic groups battled for basic privileges that were otherwise not given. 

Online classes are but a minute task when accompanied by these factors. Failure to see the evident connections that can be drawn from these issues is simply a decision to remain ignorant. 

This is not to say that stressors that affect the general student population aren’t valid–they most definitely are–but it’s important to recognize and acknowledge the intersections that come into play for others. These experiences cannot be addressed until they are understood. As classes slowly begin to shift from fully remote systems to hybrid ones, it is absolutely vital for institutions to take into account how different students experience school and come up with unique and novel ways to approach such issues. We’re not “all in this together” until that happens. 

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