UvA, don’t enforce the binding study advice now

By Hanna Blom, Coordinator Education (University) for ASVA. This opinion piece was published on March 18th 2020 by Folia (in Dutch).

This is no business as usual, and students should therefore not be kept to their binding study advice (BSA), according to European Studies student Hanna Blom. ‘Grant the first year students the security of a second year, regardless of the result of their study advice.’

This Monday at the agreed upon time of 4:30 pm I joined in on a Skype appointment with one of my teachers. The initial awkwardness of the moment disappeared soon when she told me about the topic of her previous meeting: coordinating the online curriculum for the remainder of the year, but possibly for the first semester of the next year as well.

Although the second part was not certain yet, especially when you take into consideration we spoke before Rutte’s call for a herd immunity later that day, she was able to assure me that during this study year, we would not be walking around the campus. Yesterday, the university decided that block 5 will be taught online. Under these circumstances, I call upon the University of Amsterdam to follow the example set by Hogeschool van Rotterdam and to suspend the binding study advice (BSA) for the year 2019-2020. 

The normal order has been too severely disturbed for us to students to the same standards. For so many first year students this is simply not the same game. The UvA should act according to the consequences of canceling all in-person education and be lenient towards first year students.

Yes, everyone is doing their best to make education continue online work as smoothly as possible. But this has turned out to be a larger challenge than expected. The internet connection may fail, Canvas might cause trouble or teachers struggle with this new way of teaching. Stories of recorded and subsequently deleted lectures and seminars where the teacher’s microphone was turned off for the first half hour, are spreading. Teachers should never be blamed for not immediately being capable of offering the same education online. However, we need to give the same room for mistakes we offered teachers to students as well.

Think of all the students that filled the library in the last semester. First year students that had a hard time finding their way in university and teaching themselves discipline to learn to study long and hard, are now facing an even harder challenge.

Furthermore, there is enough to get distracted by. On Twitter, UvA teacher Natalie Scholz called for attention to students’ mental stability during these times of chaos to start online education. On top of the constant reports concerning Covid-19, the national strategy that seems to change every evening, the fear of getting ill or infecting others, first year students cannot be given the added pressure of their binding study advice. There is enough to be worried about and drive yourself crazy in these times, and UvA has the chance to at least take away one of those worries.

The financial insecurity of all the students who, besides taking out a maximum student loan, have a side job in catering, education or other services, should be taken into consideration as well. The consequences of missing income for an indefinite time will without a doubt have an effect on the study results of a substantial part of the students.

There are so many other causes that will complicate studying at home. Not having a good computer, being forced to move back in with their parents or being in a packed student house; all of these students will have a hard time continuing to study under these circumstances.

These are strange and uncertain times for all of us. While everyone is doing their best to continue education, we cannot deny that there are too many factors that will have their impact on study results. Grant first year students the security of a second year, regardless of their study advice.