Some DePaul faculty offer increased support for students amid COVID-19 pandemic


The view of the John T. Richardson Library from the quad. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

Family matters, financial burdens and other unforeseen circumstances challenge students to complete schoolwork on top of everything else. DePaul professors have different strategies – some offering support and leniency while others continue to enforce strict guidelines. 

Some students have experienced Coronavirus-induced obstacles over the Spring Quarter. Some struggle to manage multiple online courses as they face technology issues, are less engaged with remote learning and experience high levels of stress.

“There have definitely been challenges to remote learning,” junior Natalie Rohman said. “You get a sudden feeling of overwhelm and anxiety when you are in control of doing all of your school work from home.”

Students like Rohman feel like their professors are being supportive during the pandemic. Some teachers recognize challenges students are facing and are being more lenient on deadlines.  

“Of course, there will be technical issues, but I think all professors have been understanding and accommodating during this trying time,” she added. 

Professors recognize these challenges and many are adapting. Decreasing the amount of coursework and being lenient on deadlines are a few ways professors are offering support for students. 

“I lightened up on homework a little and am being far more flexible about how and when work needs to be completed than I would be were it not for the pandemic,” said David Welch, the assistant director of the DePaul Publishing Institute.

Welch and other professors are supporting students during stay-at-home orders by being flexible when it comes to teaching online classes. He also offers support to his students beyond the classroom. 

“I stress that I’m always willing to listen and want to help with whatever I can, whether that’s coursework or not,” he said. “Everyone can use all the support they need, at the moment.” 

Welch emphasizes the importance of offering emotional support to students during difficult times. 

“I’m hoping since I’ve been relatively fortunate, that it’s affecting my teaching inasmuch as I can pay that fortune forward to students with flexibility and empathy,” he said. 

Professors like Welch recognize that faculty and students alike are negatively impacted by COVID-19. Many people had not anticipated completing their courses online for the remainder of the academic year. There wasn’t much time available for them to prepare and adjust to a virtual format. 

“This is the first time I’ve taught an online course, so it’s a challenge,” journalism instructor Edmund Lawler said.  “Talking to my laptop rather than to a roomful of students is going to take some getting used to.”

While DePaul faculty adapt to online teaching, the transition has unprecedented challenges. For instance, remote learning doesn’t replace the in-person classroom experience. 

“It’s hard to digitize the energy of a live undergraduate journalism classroom,” Lawler said. 

Faculty and students alike are transitioning to an online format, which can be challenging at times. Some DePaul teachers recognize the difficulties of online learning and offer leniency to their students. 

But not all DePaul teachers are being as understanding or accommodating during the pandemic. 

One DePaul student sent The DePaulia screenshots of an email in which their professor emphasizes the importance of time management. The student wishes to remain anonymous to avoid any potential punishment. 

“I do not extend deadlines because you have so many days in which to complete the items…plan accordingly,” the professor said.

In the same email, they added, “I had some family issues that required my attention this week…so I did not complete all feedback and grading,”

The professor stresses how important it is for the class to meet deadlines. Simultaneously, they mention how personal issues, like family illness, has impacted their ability to finish grading on time.

“I lost it because they mention personal stuff and how they need more time, and in the same email the professor emphasizes the importance of turning assignments in on time,” the student said. “I’m such a believer in you never know what people are going through behind the scenes.” 

Some students may currently be facing a lot of unknowns and disruptions as a result of the pandemic. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress during a pandemic can include difficulty concentrating among other physical and mental impacts. Stress can interfere with daily activities for extended periods of time, especially for people with preexisting mental health conditions. 

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and some people react more strongly than others, according to the CDC. They recommend making time to unwind as a way to cope with stress. Students facing the pressure to meet strict deadlines may find it difficult to make extra time for themselves.

Students say some DePaul professors are being more lenient in light of the coronavirus. Other professors expect students to meet deadlines on time, regardless of external circumstances. 

“We all have personal stuff and you don’t know what other people are going through,” the anonymous DePaul student said.