Academic Senate allows instructors to make finals optional in light of pandemic, protests

Academic Senate allows instructors to make finals optional in light of pandemic, protests

Photo Credits: SHEREEN LEE / AGGIE FILE

Instructors are not required to make finals optional, not authorized to cancel scheduled finals

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing protests and demonstrations focused on racism and police brutality, the UC Davis Academic Senate announced its decision today to allow instructors to make their scheduled finals for Spring Quarter courses optional, as per a letter sent to instructors by Academic Senate Chair Professor Kristin Lagattuta.

“Our UC Davis community is currently experiencing the compounding stressful effects of the global pandemic with the pain, suffering, and outrage over the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor,” the letter states. “Due to these events, some instructors who have scheduled a final exam in Spring 2020 may wish to offer students the alternative of receiving their course grade based on work completed through the last day of instruction (June 4).”

In an email sent to The California Aggie, Lagattuta explained that instructors are not required to make their course finals optional. Even if a course’s final exam is made optional, students are still able to take the exam, as “many students rely on their final exams to improve their grades,” Lagattuta noted.

She also clarified that the Academic Senate, which has authority over decisions regarding courses, instruction and grading, “did not authorize instructors to cancel scheduled finals.”

This is now the second quarter in a row that the Academic Senate has made provisions for finals. In Winter Quarter, the Academic Senate allowed for “maximum flexibility,” which enabled instructors to substitute scheduled finals for a take-home exam or to drop the final exam altogether.

Lagattuta also emphasized the flexibilities made this quarter to assist with student academic success: The deadline to opt into undergraduate Pass/No Pass (P/NP) and graduate Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading was pushed until June 4, the last day of instruction, the quarter was made exempt from university and college-specific undergraduate P/NP unit caps and advisors were encouraged to be flexible with late drop requests.

Additionally, Lagattuta noted that, as is the case every quarter, students are able to contact their instructors to request an incomplete.

“Instructors are working hard to make sure that their students learn the material and are prepared for the next course in a series or for their post-graduation plans—they do have their students’ best interests in mind,” Lagattuta said via email. “Students should also be aware that many instructors are processing their own trauma and stress. So, please respect the decision the instructor makes for your course.”

Written by: Hannah Holzer — campus@theaggie.org