CUNY’s distance learning leaves students in challenging positions

BRENIKA BANKS | 7/30/2020, midnight
CUNY students have waited months for updates to reveal if classes will resume on campuses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The main concern with distance learning is that it exacerbates existing inequalities—such as having a home space conducive to study,” said Lawrence Johnson, an assistant professor of sociology at Brooklyn College. Johnson understands the difficulty some students are having with space at home and housing insecurities. He shared having several students communicate their problems prioritizing courses from home and offered support in helping students stay connected. “The obvious difficulty is that both students and faculty had to manage the health issues of family and other loved ones while adjusting to drastically different routines, child care, and other social networks and resources that we rely on, e.g. food services,” Johnson articulated.

CUNY’s Graduate Center has been helpful to students like Sydoni Ellwood, 30, by providing resources and extra support. The center has made their library accessible to graduate students, as well as following instructions to be as lenient as the subject matter would permit, according to Ellwood. “The greatest challenge I faced was finding appropriate pockets of time to complete my readings and research as I was also working full-time from home,” said the graduate student who is continuing her studies in urban education. She voiced her concerns for international students, undergrad peers struggling financially, and other peers who must be in a synchronous course at the same time as their children. She also expressed her concern with Gov. Cuomo and Chancellor Rodríguez’ approval of deep budget cuts for the CUNY system which counteracts the academic and wellness support most students have. “These budget cuts are stripping CUNY of all that makes it the best public university: accessibility and affordability,” Ellwood concluded.