Tone of College COVID-19 Email Updates Impact Students

A recent email sent out to students from the Office of the President mandated Albion College students to get COVID-19 testing after a spike of cases on campus. Periodic emails like this are sent to remind students to get tested and keep everyone up to date on what is going on around them (Photo by Alyiah Harris).

Emails are one of the main ways to get students, staff and administrators up to date on the things that are going on around campus. Whether it is information about COVID-19, events, safety measures or anything that needs to be known to the public, emails are a quick and effective form of communication. 

Despite the pros of emails, they also come with quite a few drawbacks and downsides, especially at the rate students are receiving them this year.

Eddie Soria, a freshman from Detroit, dealt with email fatigue this semester, which mainly stems from only reading emails from professors or the college. 

“I do not really read all of [the emails],” said Soria. “If it’s one by one it’s good, but when it’s a lot, they can be hard to keep up with.” 

Students’ trust administration will inform them about what is going on around them while still putting it in a tone that is effective and puts students at less of a risk for worry considering all the things that are happening.

However, that is not always the case.

“I have been starting to think they are going to make us go home, I guess. So the emails make me worry,” said Makayla Hawkins, a sophomore from Chicago.

Administration may have one view of how to most effectively inform students and keep them safe, but students have different suggestions for how the administration should spread information as well as what specific information is being spread.

“They don’t have to identify who it is, but they should at least tell us, ‘You have such-and-such amount of people in your hall.’ Like, be cautious. That would be more helpful, instead of just saying, ‘you have this many people in isolation,’” said Hawkins. “I walked out of my dorm one day and saw people getting food delivered right next door, and I got scared. My friends are over it and are talking about just going home at this point.”

Students appreciate being informed in a specific manner, with specific details. Doing so may even motivate students to be even more cautious and less careless. 

“I have rarely responded to any of the emails because there isn’t much room for your opinion to actually be stated,” said Haley Damars, a sophomore from Livonia. 

Suggestions from students goes a long way. The administration has their ideas on how things should go but connecting with students may be more beneficial.

“More of the surveys they have been sending out more occasionally would be good because I feel like it gives more of a voice to students,” said Damars.

Giving a voice to students and hearing what they have to say and how they feel makes a difference to some students. 

“Administration asks so much of us and don’t really reward us when we’ve reached those goals. Even just a simple email, like, ‘You guys are doing so good,’ but they really hammered hard down when it was three positives, and it was like they were saying we were doing so terrible,” said Kym Strozier, a sophomore from Troy.  

Appreciation even in the form of words will make a big difference for the emotional well-being of the students. 

“They were ranting angry emails at us like we are all doing something wrong when it was just a handful of people when everyone else thought everything was going good,” said Strozier. “Administration needs to send out more positive feedback more than just negative feedback.”

The way messages are sent through email is so important. It isn’t just about the format and grammar but it is how the reader on the other end will take it depending on the tone and the manner in which it is written.

“I have been following the protocol very carefully the whole time already. I only leave my room when I absolutely need to. The response to it was more emotional,” said Eryn Star, a senior from Centerbrook, Conn. “The particular email with the sentence about other ‘students from other colleges being disrespectful, selfish, or dangerous,’ I think that was the part that upset me the most because it wasn’t about committing it was more about if we do what these other students are doing then it makes us disrespectful and selfish people. It’s more of a statement about character.”  

Star thinks that emails should empower students more than scrutinize them because students are already going through so much. However, she does think receiving regular emails consistently is helpful outside of the negative tone.

“The issue was that the emails implied not necessarily a threat, but they implied that they would view us that way if we did those things,” said Star. “Emails should empower students to improve and make sure we stay safe. That particular sentence made me feel guilty even though I haven’t done anything wrong.” 

Star said she felt called out in that email, because even though not everyone is breaking the protocols, students who do and don’t alike all get the same emails. What is said to someone, even through email, can play a major role in their resulting emotions.

“There are circumstances in my life where I had been guilted, so I had previous negative associations with that method of trying to get me to do things no matter if I wanted to do it,” said Star. “Even though I want to keep myself safe, that felt like a guilt message that was more designed to make me feel bad and that made me uncomfortable.”

Students feel that emails should not only give updates on COVID-19 and protocols but the emails could include small things that can help guide them to make better and more cautious choices. 

“I had trouble getting to the assigned testing dates, and the reason why is the app doesn’t remind me to go to the appointment,” said Star. “The emails that tell me to update my symptoms were helpful but the app doesn’t involve doing appointment test reminders in the way it reminds you to update your daily symptoms”.

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