The LfA Marketing Scheme Revisited: Two Weeks In, It is Clear that this was a Hoax to Lure In Tuition Dollars
According to Boston University, the Learn from Anywhere (LfA) approach was chosen because:
"It protects the health and safety of everyone, students and faculty, and provides the kind of flexibility that students need in these difficult times. It enables the University to meet the needs of all students, and to deliver the same high-quality teaching BU students are accustomed to.”
Two weeks into the semester, it is clear that this rationale is a hoax.
First, in what way does LfA protect the health and safety of everyone? Does it protect the health and safety of faculty who are forced to teach classes even though they live with family members who are at high risk of COVID complications? Does it protect the health and safety of employees who are required to spend long hours in classrooms? Does it protect the health and safety of students who may be exposed for at least 162 hours in relatively poorly ventilated classrooms under conditions in which we know that COVID spreads through aerosol that doesn't observe the six-foot rule? Does it protect everyone's health and safety when we know for a fact that there are going to be a considerable number of students who are non-compliant with safety protocols?
Second, the LfA approach doesn't provide flexibility for everyone. Sure - it provides flexibility for the most privileged students who are in excellent health, have sufficient resources, do not live with high risk individuals, and are not caretakers for high risk individuals. However, what kind of flexibility does it provide for vulnerable students who have medical conditions, insufficient resources, or caretaking responsibilities?
Third, how does LfA enable the University to meet the needs of all students? Again, it may meet the needs of the most advantaged, but surely not those of the most vulnerable: like, for example, the need to be treated equally to other students, regardless of race or income or social class.
Fourth, I can personally vouch for the fact that the LfA approach does not deliver the same high-quality teaching that BU students are accustomed to. This is why, at SPH, so many students are now opting to attend classes online. We now have a number of classes in which every student is attending online, and many others in which the number of students in the classroom is less than five. Personally, I have a total of 68 students between my two classes: 65 are attending online and 3 are attending in the classroom (and that number will likely continue to drop).
The students may have been fooled by the propaganda they received this summer, but they aren't being fooled once they enter the hybrid classroom and realize that they can't hear their classmates who are attending remotely, that it is extremely uncomfortable to sit for 3 hours with a mask on and not even be able to take a sip of water, and that the complexities of the hybrid system during a pandemic seriously interfere with educational quality.
So if the stated rationale is a hoax, what was the real rationale?
Quite simply, it was to lure in as many tuition dollars as possible by announcing - at an inappropriately early time - that students could attend classes in person this fall if they wanted to. This was designed to maximize the accepted student yield, prevent students from deciding to defer, and prevent students from choosing to attend other schools.
Many students, however, are arriving here and quickly realizing that LfA was a hoax. At SPH, nearly all of our continuing students have already figured this out and are attending class virtually. In one of our DrPH classes, all of the students unanimously agreed to take the class online because they realized that the LfA approach was inappropriate and violated public health and social justice principles.
Nevertheless, the university is so tied to being able to market that it is offering LfA that it is requiring teachers to go into the classroom even if none of their students are attending in-person. How ridiculous is that?
The point is this: apparently, it is much more critical to the university to be able to publicize that it is offering every student a choice of hybrid education than it is for the university to use common sense. It is also apparently more important for the university to preserve the LfA system than it is to preserve the health of the BU community and that of our neighbors with whom we share this city.