Chancellor Yang, you have a crisis on your hands. A crisis of confidence.
As a senior majoring in English at UC Santa Barbara, I had looked upon my upcoming last quarter with melancholy. Here, I have had the support of instructors who invested in me and other students, owing to the remarkable reputation that UCSB had earned.
I am a transfer student; I studied at both Santa Barbara City College and Allan Hancock College. Last summer, I was able to take two online courses within the UC system: one at Berkeley and the other at Irvine. I am a nontraditional student and with this comes a great deal of experience. I have had a long history of brick-and-mortar college instruction followed by three solid years of exclusively online education. The current online class structure that UC Santa Barbara has hastily crafted falls decidedly short compared to that of other schools with less financial resources.
There is a public petition circulating, with close to 7,000 signatures at the time I am writing this, in which students and their families are demanding a reduction in their spring quarter tuition fees. “I feel I am paying to teach myself,” and “Our tuition is the same, but the learning experience is sub-par” are some of the comments left on the petition. I cannot agree more. The infrastructure of UCSB’s online learning experience compared to that of the local community colleges, or even local high schools, has been inferior. This rush to implement inadequate software coupled with poor instructor communication under a strict quarter system threatens to tarnish the reputation of UCSB. However, more importantly, your student population is severely underserved by these glitchy and problematic systems.
GauchoSpace already had the options for forums and video uploads. The rush to adopt Zoom meetings has forced faculty to implement software they are poorly equipped to manage. Additionally, there is significantly better educational software than Zoom available. When we attend the best public university system in California, with UCSB posturing itself as a cutting-edge, research-based university, the planning, adoption and addition of online education should have been anticipated years ago. UC Los Angeles has made a much smoother emergency transition as they have been answering the need for online classes since 2014.
Within the bounds of a research university, connection should be the emphasis. Students that are now practicing social distancing are also feeling isolated from their academic community. The general feeling of faculty disarray is communicated through chaotic Zoom lectures and the numerous conflicting emails subsequently raising student anxiety levels. It is clear that the faculty were not supported enough prior to the start of spring quarter to prepare and alter their lesson plans.
The UCSB experience is one that aspires to deliver a “dynamic environment that prizes academic inquiry and interpersonal connection to inspire scholarly ambition, creativity, and discoveries with wide-ranging impact.” When students are met with broken links, overloaded systems and deliverables that are disjointed and confusing, you should expect us to ask why and demand better of you. We deserve an explanation. Seven thousand (and counting) people are demanding compensation.
As the system stands now, already possessing our spring tuition fees and with grades nine weeks away, how do you — UC Santa Barbara — rise to the occasion and provide us with the educational experience we have earned?
Terra Paige is a senior English major with two sons, 15 and 19. She is a California native that was raised on baby oil at the beach and buttered bread with every meal.