About a year ago, the pandemic hit the U.S. and many schools — including the University of Wisconsin — shut down nationwide for health and safety reasons.
Because of the sudden transition from in-person to online classes, the university offered students a special disruption grading.
For the Spring 2020 semester, the COVID-19 disruption grading allowed students to choose the Satisfactory Disruption or Unsatisfactory Disruption (SD/UD) option for any final class grades they liked. Classes graded with the SD option still counted credits and progress towards students’ desired majors and certificates, and did not affect their grade point average. It relieved many students who encountered difficulty adjusting to a new form of learning.
After the Spring 2020 semester, the COVID-19 grading option stopped, yet the pandemic continued. The university was not considerate of its students when it decided to resume the normal P/F option, where students only choose one class for P/F and the chosen P/F class may not count for credits or progress in academic programs.
When UW switched to online learning, the university guidelines forbid instructors from giving students more work, yet many professors chose to ignore such guidelines and give students more work to do than when classes were in-person. This put more pressure on students than they should have endured.
According to Alex Peseckis, a sophomore studying computer science and linguistics, professors give “more and longer assignments for students to complete.”
Another student, Audrey Swanson, a junior who majors in legal studies with a criminal justice certificate, said she has more work to do when professors ask students to write long discussion posts to imitate an in-person discussion section.
Another related academic stress is required attendance for classes, labs or online discussions. This academic policy has a negative effect on students’ mental health. Moreover, for many international students, instructors do not consider the time difference.
Due to the pandemic, many international students cannot return to the U.S. because of Visa or quarantine restrictions. They have to take classes in the middle of the night and stay up to do school work. This is both physically and mentally unhealthy, which the university has mostly ignored.
As the pandemic goes on, students face many non-academic challenges the university fails to address. Foremost, if students catch COVID-19 and experience severe symptoms, can they really be fully attentive to classes or schoolwork? Don’t they need time off to recover?
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There is no official university policy allowing students to fully focus on recovery. Students who contract COVID should not need to worry about their academics while in recovery. The university should allow them to relax and focus during their quarantines.
And, students’ emotional wellbeing can dramatically decrease if their loved ones are hospitalized or pass away because of the virus.
With all these stressors, the SD/UD grading option will address all students and relieve some level of academic stress during these times of uncertainty. It will also help relieve the psychological stress of trying to balance both academics and mental health.
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To discontinue the SD/UD grading option is to say UW no longer recognizes the disruptions brought by the pandemic. To discontinue the SD/UD is to say the university prioritizes academics before student wellbeing.
If the university truly cares about its students, it must resume and continue the SD/UD grading option until it resumes fully in-person operation.
Ken Wang ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.