The College of Arts and Sciences and the Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a virtual town hall on Friday to hear students’ concerns about online classes, grading and plans for the fall semester.
More than 30 attended the hour-long meeting on Microsoft Teams, including SGA president Julia Nicolls, Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Shoemaker and Associate Dean Christopher Kaiser.
“Every semester we have done town halls,” Kaiser said. “This was our first virtual one. The need to host one now grew out of the need to be available to answer questions and continue to support our students and offer them the ability to ask questions and hopefully gain understanding."
With regards to the fall semester, Shoemaker said he was not aware of any decisions made at the University level, but is preparing contingency plans within the College of Arts and Sciences.
“At the level of the college, it’s everything from... if we can’t open at all face-to-face in August and September to… if social distancing is still in place and, for example, we have reduced lab capacity or we can’t run large lectures,” Shoemaker said at the town hall. “No decisions have been made and in terms of what we know about the virus, I think we don’t know enough to have a good grasp on what’s going to happen.”
Some students had questions regarding more lenient grading within the College.
Freshman biology major Sabrina Pushnya has been working as a pharmacy technician throughout the COVID-19 crisis and feels that grading should be more consistently lenient due to her unusual circumstances.
“Some professors have been very fair and understanding, while others have raised their expectations even more and directly stated that they don't care about our individual situations,” Pushnya said.
Dean Shoemaker responded, saying he plans to bring up leniency at future Arts and Sciences meetings.
“This is an unprecedented situation. I would hope that my faculty in general respond with compassion and empathy,” Shoemaker said.
Another topic of discussion was RPNow, a testing software which records students as they take assessments. The service reports suspected incidents of cheating but has caused concerns about accessibility and privacy.
Kaiser responded to concerns about RPNow by suggesting that students reach out to their professors if they have any problems with the software.
“This is the best we’ve got right now,” Kaiser said of the service. “It’s not ideal, but it is what they’re using.”
The College of Arts and Sciences plans to hold another town hall in the fall.
Daniel O’Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @itsDanOConnor.