By RACHEL BENOUDIZ
On Feb. 12 the university announced to its students through email that the alternative grading scale from spring 2019 and fall 2020 would not be in effect for the spring 2021 semester. SGA created a survey to gather the opinions of the students on alternative grading for students to express their opinions on alternative grading. However, when this survey was brought before the University Faculty Council (UFC), it was discredited because the survey was not approved by the Office of Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness.
The “Alternative Grading Scale Survey by SGA” was created on Feb. 4 by class of 2023 SGA senator and academic affairs chair Denise Naughton, an economics major, prior to the release of the UFC’s decision to not continue with the alternative grading scale. The SGA Senate voted to approve the survey on Feb. 11 at their next meeting, the day before the decision went out to the student body.
UFC Chair Andrew Dolby declined to comment on this topic.
“The survey was created by me and the idea of the survey was… widely accepted by members of the Senate as our goal was to ensure that the student voices were directly heard by the UFC,” said Naughton. The survey was distributed through social media, such as the UMW Meme Page, on the day that the UFC’s decision came out. It was later distributed through an email from Kathleen Flanagan on Feb. 17.
The survey received around 1,200 responses. The responses included students that do not want to use the alternative grading scale but wanted the opportunity for their peers to use the scale. The majority of the responses were in favor of the alternative grading scale, according to SGA vice president Amber Brown.“A lot of responses were trying to make you understand why they need it [alternative grading scale],” said Brown.
The survey and the results were shared at the emergency “Can We Talk” SGA meeting on Feb. 18. In attendance at the meeting were 21 people including SGA representatives, Provost Nina Mikhalevsky, Dr. Andrew Dolby, Dr. Debra Schleef and students.
SGA’s survey to gauge students’ thoughts on the alternative grading scale was then discredited on Feb. 26 because it had not been approved by the Office of Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness (IAE).
Schleef, the associate provost for Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness, decided that the survey was not valid. Schleef commented that the vernacular of the survey was too informal.
“We are kind of in a transition period here, I think where there is no formal process. There will always be a kind of informal understanding that SGA, if they are going to put a survey out… they should have it be run by me first, but we are still kind of in the middle of that,” said Schleef in regards to campus groups conducting surveys that should be approved by IAE. IAE has different levels of approval for surveys, like people requesting email lists of students and staff, or using qualtrics. UMW conducts census surveys to easily gauge the response of the student population.
“You want the survey to be as representative as possible,” said Schleef. The survey being distributed in Google Forms was not a problem.
Schleef said, “There were a couple of questions on there that it wasn’t so much bias, but it was kind of like ‘this isn’t really clear.’” She also felt that the multiple-choice answers could have provided more specific answers.
Schleef is working to create a resource for organizations that include information to create an accepted survey.
SGA was unaware of the requirements of the survey at the time the alternative grading survey was released.
“At [the time of the survey being released] we were unaware that any decisions had been made regarding alternative grading,” said Naughton.
The SGA survey was distributed without requiring a UMW login to give anonymity to those that chose to fill out the survey.
“This was initially done by the senate to ensure anonymity, but in future surveys, we are trying to look in both allowing anonymity and addressing the concerns of the UFC by creating surveys through a more official channel that require a UMW email but still will keep that information anonymous from the people able to view the survey results so students can share their opinions openly,” said Naughton.
The survey did not include questions like academic year, race/ethnicity or gender. These items are information Schleef wants in approved surveys to gauge the response demographic. Schleef said it is important that “the sample is generalizable to the larger group.”
Kendall Wilkinson, a sophomore psychology major in the elementary education program, did not agree with the SGA survey being discredited by the university.
“I don’t think I agree with them completely scrapping it [the survey], just cause I think there was some thought put into the survey, and there is a point for them making it because SGA knows their students and everything,” she said. “I think if the university was to make a survey [about alternate grading] with like more of what they are looking for that would be helpful. There are probably students that would need the alternative grading scale.”
The SGA alternative grading scale survey, along with the responses received, was dismissed by the university. The university has included a new withdrawal policy instead of continuing the COVID alternate grading from previous semesters.