OPINION: Isolated students are being shut out of the 5C learning community

A group of smileys study and attend online class together outside. In the corner, a sad smiley has a question mark above them.
(Seohyeon Lee • The Student Life)

Pitzer College has never seen a school year like this before. Since reuniting on campus last fall, students, faculty and staff alike have practiced patience with one another as we cope with the growing pains of adjusting to on-campus life amid COVID-19. 

Upon receiving a positive test, students are notified and accompanied to the Claremont Collegiate Apartments to isolate in accordance with LA County’s official quarantine guidelines. But while isolation is an important element of the 5Cs’ plan to keep us safe, Pitzer is losing sight of what it is keeping us safe for. 

By popular demand, it is important for students to physically stay at school in order to receive the best educational experience possible. The secondary option is class via Zoom under demanding circumstances, like quarantine. However, a number of Pitzer students have been unable to access class via Zoom during their isolations. 

Pitzer, along with the rest of the 5Cs, has a “Quarantine & Isolation Plan for Students” on their school page. Under the page titled “While in Isolation Housing,” the meal delivery system is explained, mental health resources are provided, and isolation guidelines are laid out, but there is no mention of Pitzer’s expectations around class attendance or classwork. 

Pitzer students, among them Tyler Beck PZ ’25, Becca Hockman PZ ’25 and Ruth Zolla PZ ’25, have been forced to advocate for access to their education. After beginning their quarantines, Beck, Hockman and Zolla began reaching out to their professors for accommodations. 

Beck, who was quarantined in February, said in an interview that he was granted access to two out of his four classes during his eleven days of quarantine. Consistent with testimonies from other students, Beck was met with varying levels of support from his professors, ranging from a professor who Zoomed him into class and provided the video recording, to a professor who did not provide any access to class material yet tested Beck on class lectures when he returned to in-person class. 

Beck said he “fell really far behind” because he “didn’t feel super supported.” He said he was fifteen readings behind in just one class that he didn’t have access to over his quarantine, while he feels “up to date” in the classes in which he was able to attend on Zoom. 

Hockman, who was also quarantined at the beginning of February, described the support she felt from her teachers as sympathetic to her health but not her learning. Hockman wasn’t granted access to any of her four classes at Pitzer, Pomona College or Scripps College; she did not attend school for two weeks. In response to her request for Zoom links, Hockman was faced with silence. In her words, “there were no alternatives for missing class.” Nearly a month later, Hockman says that she has “just caught up” in her classes while accepting that she “will never fully be caught up in the course reading and the material that [she] missed.” “The anxiety of getting back into the swing of things is just not easing for me,” she added.

Zolla was quarantined twice, once in October 2021 and once this past February. She found her quarantine experiences very different. The first time around Zolla had no access to any of her classes, although she was “expected to do everything [she] had to do.” This more recent time, Zolla was granted access to all five of her classes at Pitzer, Scripps and Claremont McKenna College. 

Student experiences must be presented to the school so that they can address the issue. Beck felt “left behind,” Hockman was frustrated with the “little to no communication” and Zolla described her professors as possessing a “lack of compassion” and “unwillingness to be flexible.” At the end of the day, students are being asked to take on the school’s job of holding 5C professors accountable. 

There is a clear lack of coherence across the 5Cs regarding access to online class for quarantining students. The 5Cs need to come together and create a standard for students to expect and rely on during these unsettling times. 

Pitzer could start by amending its quarantine and isolation plans to create a clear vision of what is expected of students and teachers. Furthermore, Pitzer should invest the necessary time and money into setting up the proper technology to accommodate quarantined students, particularly for those whose classes are held in outdoor classrooms where joining through Zoom might be more difficult. 

This responsibility has been falling on vulnerable students for too long. It is time for Pitzer and the 5Cs to support our quarantined peers.  

Annika White PZ ’25 is from Southport, Connecticut. She enjoys hiking, journaling, and making playlists on Spotify.

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