The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

With students frustrated by no alternate grading, UFC works on option for students struggling most

3 min read

The Office of Academic Services located on the second floor of Lee Hall. | Emily Warren, The Blue and Gray Press

by KAITLYN HUNDLEY

Staff Writer

In response to an email that there will be no alternative grading option this semester, many students had concerns with the abrupt decision. But, an alternate grading plan for students with extenuating circumstances is in the works.

Sarah Riddell, a senior computer science major, wrote a letter to the Office of Academic Services stating that she was not happy with the decision that was made. 

“I initially decided to write the letter because I saw, through the UMW meme page and various discord servers I’m a part of, that a lot of students were upset with the decision and felt that UMW didn’t really care about their mental health,” said Riddell. 

She then sent an addendum following the letter stating some additional concerns about the decision to not have an alternative grading option this semester. 

“With no alternative plan currently being offered or guaranteed…we have been left high and dry. It is disappointing at the least and infuriating at the most. We need our university to do better,” said Riddell. 

At least 70 people have co-signed Riddell’s letter thus far. Faculty and staff soon realized how concerned students were.

On Feb. 16, students received an email from Dr. Andrew Dolby, University Faculty Council chair, that explained the process behind the decision to take away the alternative grading scale this semester. Statistics showed from last semester that “11 percent of all grades were ‘alternative scale’ last semester and 29 percent of students used the alternative grading scale for one or more courses,” said Dolby in an interview.

According to Dolby, some professors were concerned that the alternative grading scale option may have hurt some students more than it helped them. 

 “Some faculty were reporting that student effort really dropped off after the change to alternative grading was announced last fall,” said Dolby. 

Students were told about the decision Feb. 12, the day of the deadline to drop classes without a withdrawal on their transcripts. Dolby stated that the University Faculty Council has never been responsible for communication decisions with students, so this may be why the decision was made on the drop deadline. 

“I agree that the decision should have been announced earlier. We generally recognize the inadequacy and lack of coordination in some of the university’s communications and will all work as a team to do better,” said Dolby. 

Kyree Ford, a senior sociology major and president of the Student Government Association, hosted a Can We Talk? meeting with Dolby on Feb. 18. Ford stated that “the decision to take away alternative grading was made by the University faculty council on February 3. However, at this meeting, they did state that they would have an option for students to opt into if they had experienced great hardships during the semester.”

Dolby also confirmed they are working on a new option for students with extenuating circumstances.

“Some special options are being explored by the University Academic Affairs Committee for students who are severely impacted by COVID-19. There have been no details sent out about those options as of now, however, meetings are underway about exploring more options for students.” 

Every student will still have the alternate grading options offered in normal semesters.

“Students will continue to have all the normal tools available to them, including switching graded credit to P/F, strategically withdrawing from courses, and asking professors for incompletes if COVID prevents them from completing work at the end of the semester,” said Dolby. 

The Student Government Association requested help from the student body by sending out an anonymous survey asking for their input about the alternate grading decision. The survey showed that “a vast majority of students would like to have alternative grading even if they don’t use it. Most students were in favor of alternative grading,” said Ford. 

Dolby offered other resources:

“Students in true need of a lifeline will get it. Peer tutoring, Academic Services counseling, the Talley Center, and professors are ready to provide extra help,” said Dolby. 

Most importantly, Dolby wants students to know that they are not going unheard. 

“This is all heartbreaking for me. I really do love my students, and I personally try to be responsive to the students in my courses and always make sure they have what they need,” said Dolby.

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