- They may be sick.
- They may have family who are sick or have already died from this virus.
- They may have had to move in order to be safe.
- They may not have the best technology to do all of this zooming
- They may be highly stressed out because their senior year is coming to a crash and that the job market anyone can recall.
- They may be stressed because they have to find food and toilet paper without endangering themselves.
- They may have children of their own who are now with them 24/7.
But the profs who do this are being told by their students that other professors are not doing the same. That other professors are holding their line on "standards" and "rigor." That some university senates have had long debates about whether to go to pass/fail for all classes or as options while easily agreeing to give junior faculty more time on their tenure clock. The latter is the right thing to do, but why hold our students to higher standards?
I have heard of profs who are requiring students to mail their papers in and to make sure they arrive before the deadline--which means that the deadline is now several days earlier. Plus this forms many to go to a post office to mail a package (probably hard to get stamps.com to set someone up in these difficult times).
We always joke that having social skills is not necessary to become a professor, that some of our colleagues have little empathy. This is not a joke right now. Most of our students are facing the worst time in their lives--we should not be adding to their stress.
What to do about this? Well, if you are a prof and you hear that a colleague is being a hardass, talk to that person's chair. If you are a student, you can tell your campus ombudsman, your dean, or a random prof with a blog. That last one will name and shame on your behalf. Because we should be taking care of our students at this time, not insisting that they perform like automatons. FFS.