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Support for Students During Finals
June 03, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We write to reinforce the messages from your Department Chairs, Deans and campus Administration to demonstrate compassion and understanding to our students during these unprecedented times. This quarter most of our undergraduate students are not on campus, and face technical, health, economic, racial injustice and social challenges that in some instances are escalating, and contributing to heightened anxiety, and difficulties in academic performance. Many of our faculty colleagues, staff, and students are feeling especially distraught after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and the violence disrupting peaceful civic marches. In addition, some of our graduate students are faced with the potential revocation of their visas per the recent Presidential Proclamation. Our goal is to reach out to fellow instructors to insure that our students’ permanent records and their ability to make future academic progress is not negatively impacted by the challenges that they have experienced this quarter, and provide them as much sympathy and support as possible through finals week.

The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) sent an email with guidance on final exams on 5/29/20. The Academic Senate recognizes that individual instructors ultimately make the decisions about what is best for their courses and for their students. Per policy, final exams cannot be waived. However, instructors do have significant flexibility regarding finals, as long as changes are applied consistently and if they are communicated clearly to students. Some suggestions include:

  • Discretion regarding the form of the final examination or assessment:
    • Consider adjusting the format, content, or length of an exam or final assessment. This may include adjusting your expectations for the assessment.
    • Substitute a take-home exam or other assignment for a final exam.
    • Offer an asynchronous final exam and open it earlier during finals week to allow students more time to complete the exam.
  • Taking advantage of previously posted grading rubrics to use the final exam score to improve a student’s grade but not lower the post week 10 grade.
  • If the course syllabus and grading rubric allows for dropping the lowest exam score, consider allowing students to opt not to take the final.
  • A no-fault final exam: the final exam grade cannot negatively impact a student’s grade.
  • Accommodate student requests to administer the exam at an alternative time from the regularly scheduled examination.

We recommend that the option for an incomplete should only be considered after the other options have been exhausted. Although we should be receptive to student requests for the “incomplete” option both the instructor and student need to understand the expectations and policies that go along with assigning an “I” grade.

Finally, Senate Council approved EPC’s proposal to grant a one-time exception to San Diego SR 500.D.2 and SR 500.E.6 to extend the deadlines for undergraduate and graduate students to select a P/NP or S/U grading option to the end of Week 11 in Spring 2020. Faculty are not obligated to provide a final grade before week 12, but this extension would allow students additional time to make this important decision.

Both EPC and Senate Council do not support approving any blanket exceptions that would require all undergraduate and graduate courses to be offered on a P/NP or S/U basis in Spring 2020. There is too much variation across disciplines, degrees, and student needs to advance a uniform policy. Every student’s circumstance is unique and they should be referred to their Dean of Academic Advising and financial aid advisor so that they can be fully informed of their options and potential consequences before making end of quarter decisions.

In addition, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides students with remote confidential, psychological counseling and crisis services. CAPS also provides a variety of remote groups, virtual workshops, and drop-in Zoom forums. Students can find a calendar of CAPS programs and services at https://wellness.ucsd.edu/caps. Please encourage your students to use this resource.

It may be helpful to remind students in class that there are campus resources available in the remote learning environment (https://vcsa.ucsd.edu/news/covid-19/). Some options include OASIS’ Drop-In Zoom Mentoring, remote Academic Resource Workshops or 1-on-1 Writing Workshops. The Teaching + Learning Commons is hosting remote Study Groups, a Writing Hub, Learning Strategies workshops and is providing virtual supplemental instruction support for a number of courses.

We hope that our community can support each other as we come to the end of the quarter. As instructors, we have the ability to forge a lasting memory of UC San Diego as a supportive and compassionate institution during a crisis that will define our students’ memory of their college experience.

Stay well.

Maripat Corr
Chair, San Diego Divisional Academic Senate

Steven Constable
Vice Chair, San Diego Divisional Academic Senate

Geoffrey Cook
Chair, Educational Policy Committee, San Diego Divisional Academic Senate

Anthony Burr
Chair, Undergraduate Council, San Diego Divisional Academic Senate

Lynn Russell
Chair, Graduate Council, San Diego Divisional Academic Senate

Michael Trigilio
Chair, Committee on Diversity and Equity, San Diego Divisional Academic Senate