The Associated Students of the University of La Verne presented the Faculty Senate with a resolution on May 6 calling for adjustments to the finals week standards – with the hope of reducing the burden being placed on students trying to finish up the semester in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition to all online classes, and the host of challenges of this unprecedented moment.
“Our suggestion is an optional finals week policy, but we understand that this may come as a challenge to academic freedom, so we are trying to shine light on the struggles that students are facing in hopes to accomplish academic aid and flexibility within the classroom,” said Maddy Ruiz, ASULV president.
On Monday, the Faculty Senate responded to the resolution during its semi-monthly meeting, held virtually via WebEx, saying that the Senate could not require all faculty to make finals optional. The Senate did, however, send a written recommendation to faculty to consider various alternatives to standard hours-long timed finals.
The senate memo suggested options for faculty to consider to mitigate students’ stress around finals, from offering open book finals, to allowing for groups to complete a final together, to allowing for the final to be taken “over time during the remaining course weeks,” to opting out entirely. All of the suggestions provided are at the professors’ discretion so as to preserve academic freedom for faculty members.
“Academic freedom does not allow us to tell faculty that they cannot give a final,” Donna Redman, associate professor of education and senate president, said during the meeting. “I know the students were hoping for something along those lines, but we can give an option and what we have here in this document are some different options for what you can do to help your students reduce their stress during final exams.”
Professor of Public Administration Matthew Witt, also a faculty senator, emphasized that although the Senate does not want to specify a one-size-fits-all situation for faculty members, they still want to recognize the stress that students are facing, which is why they decided to provide different options for faculty members to consider. He added that some faculty members may have their course set up in a way that requires a final exam, meaning they are continuing with the exam not because they do not recognize student’s heightened stress levels but because of course organization.
“I hope people understand that the deliberation was sincere and respectful of the student concerns,” Witt said. “By no means was there any sentiment among the Senate that student concerns were invalid at all. If we can signal to faculty, ‘Hey, think about your students right now and if there are adjustments you can reasonably make, please consider doing so.’ That’s the message we wanted to affirm.”
Ruiz said that while she expected this response from the Senate, she still hopes that the experiences students are going through amid this pandemic are being heard.
“Success within the class during a pandemic should not be measured the same way it has been measured before,” Ruiz said. “We hoped that the resolution would be able to encapsulate the challenges COVID-19 has presented to our students accordingly.”
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