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Walk around campus, and you’ll see people in varying stages of leaving the pandemic behind. Some might be roaming around without masks, basking in the sunshine. Most would be heading to an in-person class or to a library to study. After sundown, they might trade the library for a frat party. Then there are Saturdays, with clogged streets and a Big House full of more than 100,000 people cheering on our Wolverines. Even the buses are going back to their pre-pandemic routes.

Coming into this semester, I wanted this. I wanted a taste of the normal college experience, rather than the pandemic-affected, virtual one I ended up getting. We weren’t usual sophomores; most of us were as unaware as freshmen about Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan understood that this might be a common sentiment among the class of 2024 and included us in many Welcome Week events.

It was almost intimidating to be around people at first. The pandemic had left us socially rusty. But apart from some initial awkwardness, we all slowly got used to the small social interactions that are part of the classroom experience.

Just as I started settling in, a second pandemic-induced behavior crept up: hyperalertness towards coughing and similar COVID-19 symptoms. The echoing sound of so many people coughing brought some uneasiness, but I brushed it aside. After all, weren’t we all vaccinated and masked up? It’s probably not COVID-19, I told myself.

Then people in my hall started getting sent to quarantine. There was a spike of COVID-19 cases, with the first two weeks of classes seeing over 460 documented positive cases. It became a part of my waking up routine to read a few COVID-19 notification emails, either of a COVID-19 case in my dorm or in one of my classes. The emails didn’t have much useful information (with no mention of which class, making it very vague if you had multiple large lectures on the same day), but they got COVID-19 back on my mind.

I started thinking about what I’d do if I contracted the virus. While vaccines certainly do a great job at preventing severe disease, a positive test result would still end up sidelining anyone for 10-14 days. I went on Canvas and checked if all my classes uploaded recordings. I was very disappointed to find out that almost half of mine did not. Additionally, some of the recordings that were uploaded had issues like the microphone not being turned on.

What makes this worse is that a lot of professors enforce lecture attendance. How are students who are quarantining supposed to stay in compliance? Or even stay on top of coursework?

Before the pandemic, this would be inconvenient but excusable. Many professors may lack the know-how to record their classes, or classrooms might not be equipped to do so. However, after two and a half remote semesters, this excuse doesn’t hold water. We’ve handled classes over Zoom where professors had to handle massive online meetings. Many buildings have also had equipment upgrades to support Lecture Capture (the lecture recording program connected to Canvas which can also simultaneously record the class slides) covering most classrooms used by LSA and College of Engineering courses. Set-up is also relatively easy compared to managing vast online meetings, with professors needing to request time slots for recordings and wearing the recorder when the time comes. For lecturers and professors who aren’t comfortable, training is also provided.

One might argue that putting in the effort to make recording classes more widespread might not be so urgent now. COVID-19 case numbers have fallen after the initial spike, but I would counter that this is something that will help students long after the pandemic is over. Students will no longer feel forced to go to classes when feeling ill to avoid missing out on content.

It boils down to a choice. Do we try to go back to exactly how things were before the pandemic and forget everything? Or do we try to keep the good things we learned? As the semester progresses, I hope the University opts to go more often with the latter.

Siddharth Parmar is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at sidpar@umich.edu