LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Ensure Equity in Academic Continuity and Student Success

Campus Pictures-Spring
Morgan Brownell/THE REVIEW

Editor’s note:

The following is a letter to the editor submitted to The Review. It was signed by students and faculty from the university. It does not constitute the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff, and this is not an editorial. We invite anyone with similar or differing opinions to submit letters to the editor at baumgart@udel.edu with the subject “Letter to the Editor”. To assure objectivity and equality, The Review invites a response from the university administration. Please note that several members of The Review’s staff signed this letter. We note this for full transparency, but these staffers signed this letter in their personal capacity, not as representatives of The Review. No staffer who signed this letter will report on this specific aspect of coronavirus’ effects.

To President Assanis and Provost Morgan,

Students, staff and faculty at the university understand that these are trying and unprecedented times, and that the coronavirus outbreak is raising questions and problems for which there are often no clear answers. We applaud the measures taken thus far to encourage physical distancing and help reduce the rate of transmission, but demand that, in the interests of students especially, several further steps are taken.

We have outlined these steps below, and we ask you to consider them in full.

1. Mandatory Pass/Fail

The university should follow the lead of eminent peer institutions in changing the grading criteria to pass/fail in all undergraduate courses, while allowing credits to still count toward degrees.

Many students are returning home to conditions that are not conducive to the intensive learning that most college courses, as originally designed, demand. Some students — especially the many New Yorkers in our student body — are returning to the coronavirus itself, faced with fear of infection and anxieties over the health of loved ones, as they are simultaneously expected to succeed in their coursework.

Others have new responsibilities at home, where at-risk family members may be presently forced to rely on younger family members for such basic tasks as purchasing groceries and going to the pharmacy. Some, prevented from going to alternative study spaces, such as public libraries and cafes, will be forced to attempt to learn and complete homework in home environments that, for these reasons and others, such as poor internet connectivity, will prevent them from performing to the standards they are capable of.

Of course, many students will face no difficulties at all. But these students should not be placed at a de facto advantage over their peers, at this institution and others, and students without the requisite resources should not be punished.

There are other worries that accompany the retention of normal grading standards. Certain courses will, no doubt, have their standards relaxed, and the likelihood of grade inflation increases dramatically; Meanwhile, others will be held to more rigorous standards under less ideal circumstances, and their grades are more likely to suffer as a result.

Some institutions are seeking a middle ground, allowing for students to opt-in to a pass/fail grading system while still receiving credit toward degrees. We strongly discourage this policy. As noted, those in conditions that better allow for success and academic continuity will arbitrarily benefit, while others, though not directly punished by lower grades, will be forced to explain their decision to opt for pass/fail to employers and graduate schools.

We understand that many students were seeking to improve their GPAs this semester, and that some — education and pre-medical majors, especially — will be concerned about the ways in which pass/fail will fail to satisfy certain college and professional standards that require letter grades.

For the students, and especially seniors, requiring letter grades for various reasons, the university should work to both vouch for these students and work case-by-case to ensure minimal damage and disruption. The university and relevant departments should, for instance, provide statements detailing the relevant policies to provide to graduate programs and prospective employers, and should also work individually with students, to the extent possible, to ensure success. These students should have the opportunity to enroll in needed courses, in their intended format and for a letter grade, in the coming terms, and ought to be provided with expanded opportunity to do so.

Especially considering that numerous institutions are implementing similar policies, we trust that standards for graduate and professional opportunities, in light of these extraordinary circumstances, can and will be accomodated and revised. For those who remain concerned, however, or would like to satisfy certain degree requirements (labs, seminars, etc.) in their intended format, we propose the following.

2. Expand Winter and Summer Session Offerings for a Free or Reduced Rate

As noted, many students have serious grounds for concern about or opposition to the previously proposed policy. To quell these concerns and offer a reasonable compensatory measure, we propose expanding course offerings for the coming Winter and Summer Sessions, and making these opportunities financially feasible for in- and out-of-state students alike.

The university should offer expanded course offerings at a free or reduced rate, and also provision housing for students at a similarly free or reduced rate.

3. Restore the Drop/Add Period for a Week

Lives of university community members remain in day-to-day flux, and commitments that seemed sensible in February are no longer feasible under current circumstances.

Students may, for instance, find themselves enrolled in courses that do not count toward degree requirements, and that do not make sense to remain enrolled in in a digitized format. As noted under the first proposal, students are returning home to new and difficult circumstances, and might reasonably hope to eliminate otherwise unnecessary responsibilities. They should be permitted to do so free of charge, and without any undesirable impact on their transcripts.

Upon the resumption of courses next week, we propose re-opening the Drop/Add period for no less than one week, so that students might reassess their decisions and commitments in light of these entirely unforeseen circumstances.

Conclusion

We trust that the President and Provost will seriously consider and implement these policies, as they are both fair and practicable. We also understand that these decisions will span various colleges and departments, and cannot be made easily. We feel, however, that these desperate times call for dramatic — though reasonable and fully considered — alterations in standard university policy that, taken together, can only work to benefit all members of the university community.

Sincerely,

Caleb Owens, Student, Plastino Scholar, College of Arts & Sciences Student Advisor, Member of the Honors Program, former Resident Assistant.

Amy Ciminnisi, Student, Plastino Scholar, Member of the Honors Program, Anthropology Club Executive Board Member.

Catherine Awad, Student
Patricia Sloane-White, Faculty
Jessica Pigeon, Student (senior)
Charlotte Moore, Student
Madison Stoupa, Student
Bianca Thiruchittampalam, Student
Kaitlyn Scott, Student, and Member of the Honors Program
Georgina Ramsay, Faculty
Alex Zorach, Alum, M.S., Applied Math (2007)
Ethan Bishop, Student
Aarti Mehta, Student
Elijah Tull, Sophomore Student
Joana Opong-Duah, Student
Joy Paganucci, VP Communications of Delta Gamma
Veda Luthra, Student (senior)
Roxanne Ramirez, Student
Winston Leslie, Student
Megane Ornella Noubissi Tabouguia, Student
Timothy Gouge, Student, Medical Scholar, and Member of the Honors Program
Tyler Glock, Student
Raymond, Student
Heli Palttala, Student
Margaret D. Stetz, Mae & Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities
Steven Gelberg, Student, Drum Major of the University of Delaware Marching Band, Vice President of the Association of Scholarly Saxophones, Historian of Deltones Acapella group, Honors Student.
Elizabeth Alban
Katherine Brooks
Charles Kimsal, Student, Member of the Honors Program
Noah Osinski, Student
Rachael Weibling, Student
Britney Vasquez, Student
Emma Loomes
Deanna Salinas, UD Civil Engineering Undergraduate
Karrine, Student
Chioma Njoku, Student
Alyssa Burks, Student (Senior) within the College of Engineering; Treasurer of the Chi Theta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; Player for Women’s Rugby
Michael Henretty, Alumni
Alexis De Santi, Student
Bianca Mers, Student, McNair Scholar, Member of the Honors Program, Member of Honors Student Advisory Committee
Maria Campanelli, Student, Eugene DuPont Scholar, and member of the honors program.
Jordan Carter, Student
Kate Uray, Student, President of the Women’s Club Rugby Team, Community Engagement Scholar, Ag Ambassador, and Member of the Honors Program
Marissa Nardella, Student, Member of the Honors Program, Student Research Assistant, Member of Honors Student Advisory Council
Cameron Bremer, Student
Mary Cordell, Student
Clare Dudley, Undergrad Student
Brynn Chieffo, Student, Member of the Honors Program, Writing Fellow, Editor-in-Chief of the Main Street Journal
Alondra Posada, Student
Ari August, Student, Member of the Honors Program, Student Mentor
Alyssa Schiff, Student, McNair Scholar, Member of the Honors Program
Barbara Ley, Associate Professor of Women & Gender Studies and Communication
Gillian Crawford, Writing Fellow
Maya Walker, Student, Member of the Honors Program
Winnie Wong, Student, Member of the Honors Program
Alexia Stock
Justine Tarsillo, Student
Gabrielle Grippo, Student
Suhey Matamoros, Student
Nisha Raman, Student, Eugene DuPont Memorial Scholar, McNair Scholar, President of the Nu Chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon, former Munson Fellow
Lisa Hubbard
Jennifer Fuentes, Student
Seth Waldron, Vocal Music Education Major, HTAC- Member, Concert Choir – Member
D’Shon Foote, Student
Marcus Holly, Student
Carly Pacanowski, Assistant Professor BHAN
Brian C., Student (Senior)
Sara Barrish, first-year student
Samaij Sanders, Meteorology and Climatology Major, Freshman
Olive Twum-Danso, Student
Tess Williams, Student
Aaron Liu
Garrett Mobley
Emily Wong
Sam Koval – President of the Archery Club – Coordinating Officer of Affiliation for NACURH
Sheryl CHAN, Student
Jazim Khan
Anna Riehl, Freshman Student
Nathan Bampo, Student
Aidan R. Fraser, Student
Evan Kimble, Student, College of Engineering, Honors Program
Janna Rus, Student
Kelly Summers, Chemical Engineering Undergrad, UDaB Senior Leadership
Samantha Side, Student
Galen Sweet, Honors Student
Lauren Krott, student
Magdalena Limon-Gutierrez, Student, RA
Wyatt Patterson, Student
Sarah Valvo – Student
Gavin Guerrera Undergraduate Student
Marc Giordano, Undergraduate student
Ryan McCarty, student
Katherine Filosa
Tara Lennon – Eugene DuPont Scholar, member of the Honors Program
Meredith Krieger, student
Gabriela Andersen, student
Scott Toreki, student
Alaka Deshpande, Student, Member of the Honors Program
Joanna Lee, student
Sansskruty (President of Let’s Talk, Vice President of Reel Productions Film Club, and Brother in Alpha Phi Omega)
Biola Adeleye (Student – Athlete)
Donna DeVito, student
Alana Cohen, Student
Irene Kocina
Sarah Wilson, Student
Sophia Glover, Student, Member of the Honors Program, Treasurer of the Swing Dance Club
Phoebe McCullough, Student, Chemistry Workshop Leader, Secretary of the Swing Dance Club
Dha’Zhea Freeman – Student
Tara Cain, Student
Biana Zbarsky, Student, Distinguished Scholar, Member of Honors Program
Jamiah Brown , Senior in the Linguistics and Cognitive Science Department
Maggie Buckridge, Student
Anna-Colette Haynes, Student
Regina Donato – Social Media Manager Intern for Residence Life and Housing, Social Media Leader for UDSMA
Alex Guterbock, Senior Undergrad, UDaB Senior Leadership
Kelsey Wagner, student, Eugene DuPont Scholar, member of the Honors Program
Matt Greco, student
Nate Abbe – Student
Dahlia LaBan, student, Community Engagement Scholar, Member of the Honors Program
Kleidy Rosales, student
Julian Yates (faculty)
Karthi Jayakumar, Student, Class of 2020, Member of the Honors Program, Founder of Charity Crossing at UD RSO
Lisa Jaremka, faculty

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    Margaret 1 week

    I can guarantee that a majority of the students signing this petition are students in majors such as business, art, communication, or others who are only looking for an undergraduate education. Your GPA may not matter to you in the long run and many of you do not have a desire to attend graduate school. For those of us who are Pre-Veterinary, Pre-Medicine, Pre-Professional majors or those just looking to continue their education, we are looking to continue on to graduate school. In order for us to be successful, we must be able to have the opportunity to improve upon low GPAs that may have been obtained during our transitional first year, we may only have one more semester to really improve before veterinary/medical school applications come out or the graduate school that we have been dreaming of attending may not make an exception to merely obtaining a “pass” in an important pre-requisite course such as Biology. I strongly believe that in no way should the university make a pass/fail system “mandatory.” I do understand that online learning will be more difficult for some but I believe that those students should seek exceptions rather than the students who desperately need a pre-requisite course and who have been working very hard in the past month to help improve their GPA. I do not believe that students will take classes seriously if all they need to obtain is a “D” in order to pass. Class participation will decrease and the quality of instruction will be negatively impacted among other things. I do not believe that graduate schools will automatically make an exception to only obtaining a pass and it will be difficult to make up for. I am not against an “optional” pass/fail system but a “mandatory” system would cause more issues than this whole situation has already caused. 

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