Where are they now?


Thursday of last week I found myself in a meeting on MS Teams. To my surprise, those attending numbered about sixty, no more. Background information: roughly 180(!) students are taking the Data Science degree program. This situation is not unique. In fact, cases of mass absence are not infrequent. Where have all these brains gone? Can students do anything about it, or would that lead to people feeling hounded?

For students in higher education, of course, attendance is not mandatory. As a matter of fact, they have no obligations at all; a yearning for academic success - and an intrinsic drive to learn - are all that provide the wind in their sails. While, on the one hand, this liberty is certainly valued (at least by me), under the present circumstances it can serve as a coupe de grâce, the final blow that brings a merciful death. It goes without saying that this liberty goes hand in hand with a certain amount of absenteeism, but isn't this getting out of hand?

We are living with extraordinary conditions of work and study, we all know this. A key aspect of this strangeness is that these environments are becoming digitalized. Might not the removal of the physical facilities also cause the erosion of our impetus, our drive? Fueled by the fact that everything is taking place online and that the university is discouraging our physical presence by removing the majority of the seating. The line that separates us from ceasing to watch any online lectures at all is now not very difficult to cross. It is becoming very tempting to stop attending completely; we can effortlessly fail to even switch on the computer.

I'm no more immune to this problem than anyone else; the terrorizing wave has reached me as it has us all. I too feel less incentive to join in at every opportunity (apologies to my calculus tutor for my absence), but I refuse to become a ghost whose name nor appearance are known. Even though the university does nothing to encourage it with its confusing Planon app, it is in fact possible to work on the campus; and so I certainly try to make use of this option. In addition, I organize my week in such a way that I watch assignments (whether offline or online) mostly with friends. Lastly, I force myself to be present at all lectures; not specifically because I need to be, but to create an artificial motivation for myself.

Without doing away with the safety measures - something, incidentally, I would indeed like to do - I see no perfect solution for our pressing problem. If the situation is to be become anything approaching manageable, both sides must lean slightly towards the other's standpoint. In answer to my earlier question; all we are doing is searching for a balance in university life, and this starts in the minds of the students themselves. I continue to hope that in the near future the waters will become calmer and the academic winds will again blow.

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