As the University of Washington gears up for final exams, students are demanding that Black students be graded with a degree of leniency because not only have they been “disproportionately impacted” by the pandemic, but they have spent much of the last several weeks “fighting for [their] rights” and being too busy “to sit down and study.”
And, according to Campus Reform, the university has agreed to their demands.
In an online petition, students call for special accommodation, particularly for Black students, for their participation in protests. As of this writing, over 60,000 people have signed the petition.
“…give Black students a break!” the petition reads, in part. “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?!”
The petition continues:
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…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.
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,” student government president Kelty Pierce told The Daily. “Still to this day, institutions such as UW, do not serve Black students to the same capacity that white students benefit from.”
Campus Reform also points to a template allegedly crafted by activists to help professors announce these accommodations.
“Dear Students, I am writing to you to offer accommodations for black students in this class during the end of this class and finals,” it reads, in part. “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.”
Campus Reform also spoke with Nicole McNichols, a UW Psychology professor, who provided a copy of an email she sent to her own students, though it does not appear to indicate if her actions are based on student race.
“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).
UW Senior Director of Media Relations Victor Balta pointed Campus Reform to a message sent to all instructors 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,” Balta said.
“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,” the statement to professors reads, suggesting accommodations such as giving extra time to finish assignments or providing a “final examination optional pathway.”
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