Letter: Request for Academic Flexibilities and Emergency Session of the UC Davis Executive Council

ASUCD last week sent a letter to the administration requesting academic flexibilities and for an emergency session of the UC Davis Executive Council of the Academic Senate to consider the adoption of academic flexibilities including, but not limited to, an emergency Passed/Not Passed Grading Option extension.

ASUCD respectfully implores all members of UC Davis faculty to consider:

  1. Adopting optional final examinations or utilizing virtual examinations for the remainder of the term
  2. Waiving attendance-based components of final grades for the duration of Fall Quarter or at minimum from 11/14 onwards
  3. Not penalizing undergraduate students who stand in solidarity with unionized academic workers by not crossing the picket line

Full letter:

Academic Senate Chair Palazoglu, Members of the University of California Academic Senate Executive Council, Members of UC Davis Faculty, Deans, Provost Croughan, and Chancellor May,

As of November 14, 2022, UAW academic workers have gone on strike across the UC system. ASUCD has and will always continue to stand in solidarity with our TAs, graduate student researchers, post-docs, and student academic workers. However, it has become readily apparent that the past week has irrevocably altered the Fall Quarter academic experience for UC Davis students.

Due to the ongoing strikes:

  • Faculty are teaching and lecturing to increasingly empty classrooms, and are now overburdened with the work of hardworking TAs and graduate student teachers, as well as their own duties and responsibilities as faculty members.
  • Undergraduates have been unable to consistently access campus due to persistent blockage of campus bus terminal entry points that have forced ASUCD to annihilate Unitrans service to terminals. Given that attendance-based grading remains a widespread practice, it is unreasonable to expect students to bear the impacts of circumstances beyond their control on their current academic progress and future post-graduation outcomes.
  • The lack of academic workers has prevented discussion sections, office hours, midterm and final review sessions, examinations, and timely grading of coursework from occurring. Many undergraduate courses are instructed entirely by or rely heavily upon instruction from academic workers. The strike has fundamentally altered the ability of student grading outcomes to reflect their understanding of course material. Negotiations between UCOP and UAW have resulted in undergraduate students having drastically different academic experiences than was expected, contingent on the degree to which academic workers are involved in the instructional process of their courses.
  • Students are reporting the alteration of course structure with entire assignments and exams, that students were preparing for and relying on for course grade improvement, being omitted. Students rely upon the predictability of their syllabi and assignments later in the quarter to improve their course performance as they develop a deeper understanding of course material.
  • One of many compelling testimonials shared anonymously with ASUCD leadership reads, “An extension to the P/NP deadline would seriously help If I had known that the strike would severely change the structure of all three of my classes, I would have changed my decisions earlier in the quarter.”
  • Undergraduates applying for further education (Graduate School, Law School, Medical School, ) and fellowship programs upon graduation would benefit from a transcript notation denoting the unprecedented nature of the strike, as course grade options for Fall Quarter will be an inaccurate and incomplete reflection of course performance.
  • Students are being forced to choose between supporting their TAs and other unionized academic workers on the picket-line or attending classes that no longer resemble the courses they registered for.

Other UC Academic Senate Executive Councils have already adopted Passed/Not Passed Grading Option Extensions in light of the strike. UCSB’s Academic Senate voted to adopt a Passed/Not Passed Grading Option Deadline extension on November 17th. Many other UCs have moved a majority of courses to remote instruction or adopted substantive academic flexibilities.

The Executive Council of Academic Senate is charged with “anticipat[ing] emerging problems… [and] tak[ing] measures to cope with them before they become urgent”. The largest work stoppage at any academic institution in history and the impact thereof on the undergraduate student body surely constitutes an urgent circumstance. We urge the Executive Council to invoke its authority under Bylaw Title V. 73 D.

The Executive Council must convene an emergency session, to consider the adoption of the following academic flexibilities no later than Wednesday, November 23rd:

  1. An extension of the Passed/Not Passed Grading Option (with the inclusion of major required courses and an allowance for students not in good academic standing to utilize this option) deadline to the last day of Fall Quarter 2022
  2. A recommendation to faculty to transition to optional final examinations or to utilize virtual examinations for the remainder of the term
  3. Implement a concrete plan to ensure that students who have filed for graduation in Winter Quarter 2023 are not adversely impacted
  4. A recommendation for faculty to waive attendance-based components of final grades for the duration of Fall Quarter or at minimum from 11/14 onwards

We are grateful to all members of UC Davis faculty and staff who have been supportive of the union’s efforts and continue to support undergraduate students by implementing academic flexibilities.

ASUCD respectfully implores all members of UC Davis faculty to consider:

  1. Adopting optional final examinations or utilizing virtual examinations for the remainder of the term
  2. Waiving attendance-based components of final grades for the duration of Fall Quarter or at minimum from 11/14 onwards
  3. Not penalizing undergraduate students who stand in solidarity with unionized academic workers by not crossing the picket line

Sincerely,

Associated Students of the University of California, Davis (ASUCD) Leadership

Radhika Gawde
ASUCD President

Megan Chung
ASUCD Academic Affairs Commission Chair

JT Eden
ASUCD Vice President

Gaius Ilupeju
ASUCD Senate President Pro Tempore

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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