Students call for laxed grading for black students. University goes along with it.
- Students at the University of Washington want lax policies for black students during finals week.
- Professors are encouraged to give their black students grading leniency to “cope emotionally.”
Students at the University of Washington are demanding that black students be given leniency on finals because they are too “busy fighting for [their] rights to sit down and study.” The university is advising professors to do just that.
An online petition calls for laxed grading and accommodations, specifically for Black students. So far, the petition has amassed more than 26,000 signatures.
“...give Black students a break! We are already DISPROPORTIONATELY impacted by this pandemic in terms of health care access and financial hardship. Now add state-sanctioned violence, how do you expect us to enter finals in this headspace?!” reads the petition.
"You need to encourage and demand professors to accommodate their black students during this time. If UW truly understands our pain, UW will be a part of alleviating it,” the petition continues. “We can’t sit back and watch as injustices unfold before our eyes. We don’t have the privilege that white and non-black students do to ignore what’s happening and stay at home to study for finals," the petition added.
“We are busy fighting for our rights and for the rights of future black children and students to sit down and study. The least UW could do is demand professors to accommodate us during this time”
“I recognize that this institution and others across the country were not built to serve marginalized students, specifically Black students. Still to this day, institutions such as UW, do not serve Black students to the same capacity that white students benefit from,” student government president Kelty Pierce told The Daily.
A template to help professors announce these accommodations has been circulating on social media, reading “Dear Students, I am writing to you to offer accommodations for black students in this class during the end of this class and finals.”
“Many black students are not just using this time to cope emotionally, but to fight on the front lines of these protests and actively work and take action on what has been happening to the black community.” it continues.
Nicole McNichols, UW Psychology Professor provided Campus Reform with a copy of the email she sent to her own students.
“I sent this on Sunday before I knew about the petition,” McNichols said. “Obviously, I support the petition and absolutely believe the accommodations it requests should be honored by all faculty. Students need all of the support and compassion we can afford to give them right now.”
The email sent by McNichols to her students reads, “I wanted to reach out and acknowledge the incredible grief, fear, and loneliness that I know many of you are experiencing in light of recent (and not so recent) events. These are frightening times and I know that many of you are struggling emotionally as our country suffers not only from a pandemic but also from abhorrent racism, overwhelming violence, and palpable rage. These events are terrible and it is completely understandable to feel scared and alone right now.”
“Last, I think we all could use a break right now as these times certainly call for compassion. Given this, there will be a following change to the course policies. First, the remaining homework chapters are being put into review mode. Everyone will receive full points. Second, I have decided to drop everyone’s lowest exam score. This means that you may opt-out of taking Exam 3 if you just don’t feel up to it, (or if you [are] happy with your scores from exam 1 and 2), the email added.”
UW Senior Director of Media Relations Victor Balta directed Campus Reform to a message that was sent to all instructors Monday asking them “to consider that while we are together as a community, some are being affected more than others.”
“I think the statement clearly lays out a couple of examples of what instructors could provide to their students, such as extra time to finish assignments or a ‘final-examination optional’ approach,” said Balta.
In the message, the university told professors “in these final weeks of the quarter, as assignments become due and exams are taken, to be especially responsive to the needs that your students, especially those who are members of the Black community, may have for accommodations as we conclude the school year.”
"Accommodations might include extra time to finish assignments or providing a 'final examination optional' pathway, for example,” the memo continued.
After initial publication of this article, Balta said, "the University absolutely did not suggest that instructors should grade any students differently based on race. While Black students were mentioned in the message that was sent to instructors on June 1, any accommodations that instructors choose to provide are available to all students, regardless of race."
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