November 24th, 2020 was a day for some people that entire semesters’ worth of credit UTD Town Hall was held, where students would ask members of the faculty and student government questions, and the administration would be asked to respond. Questions were sent to a moderator, who selected appropriate questions and submitted them to the administrators, who would do their best to respond to the students’ questions.
This happened to be one of the more exciting Town Halls that UTD has held, with many people in attendance specifically to question the university on their policy towards the credit/no credit system, which multiple people have advocated for due to the impact of the pandemic.
Other topics that were covered at this Town Hall included coronavirus safety for in-person group events, changes in the billing policy, and the use of other paid websites when assignments can be posted on eLearning and the use of daily health checks.
Coronavirus has long been a concern at the university, and thankfully, the administration was able to answer some key questions that had previously gone unanswered. Regarding graduations, each school would have its own virtual graduation ceremony. Further information will be provided on November 30th. Coronavirus testing would also increase massively in the spring semester. Students should be able to receive a coronavirus test for as little as 50 dollars out of pocket. Some groups of students will be randomly tested, and the goal is for all students to be tested before the next semester. All athletes, researchers, and clinical staff have already been tested.
Regarding vaccines, since UTD is an authorized vaccine distribution center, it is also expected to be easily available there as well. Student organizations are also likely able to hold in-person events, but a staff member must be present. Social distancing is also a must, with more details to follow.
One question that was asked goes as follows: “Students pay thousands every year and student fees for accessing many resources on campus. Why are students still required to pay to use TopHat when eLearning could host the content. You could consider this a “pay to pass” type of requirement.”
When asked, the panelists stated that they were not familiar with TopHat, and that the tuition money had been used to upgrade Elearning and Microsoft Teams. Then they moved on to the next question. Avoiding an uncomfortable question is unfortunately a theme that will be seen again later on in the Town Hall.
For a long time, almost the entire semester, much of the student body has been advocating for a credit/no credit system. It’s been stated tens of times, and I’m sure you already know, but the pandemic has put everyone in a difficult position, and because of this, many students do not have access to the resources that they would otherwise. Online learning has taken a toll on many students, and as a solution, many students are in favor of instituting a pass/fail system that would give course credit to a student as long as they passed that course, and this particular issue has caused quite a stir in the UTD community.
However, at the Town Hall meeting, it was revealed that the administration had decided to table the issue. Two speakers from the Academic Senate, Dr. Scotch and Dr. Warren, revealed that they had decided to table the issue, under the statement that it was “too late to make any decisions” and that doing so would be academic inequity, citing that in the summer, there were no options for C/NC for students then. Some of the rationale also comes from the fact that many students who applied for C/NC didn’t realize the consequences of it, and thus had to back out, but as well as this, multiple students were also forced to withdraw from courses because there was no C/NC option.
This decision was extremely unpopular, and students constantly messaged the moderator with questions citing UT Austin’s decision to change to a credit/no credit system. One of the questions that were asked was what follows, asked by an anonymous poser:
“Earlier, the Speaker of the Academic Senate stated: “No university changes its billing policy a week before the last day of class unless it is an extreme exigency.” As of this evening, we are in the third wave of a pandemic that has killed a third as much as the Spanish Flu. 30 million Americans do not have enough to eat. Nearly half are under threat of eviction. UT Austin believes it is an extreme exigency. The student body believes it is an extreme exigency. The student government believes it is an extreme exigency. Why does the UT Dallas Academic Senate not believe that it is an extreme exigency?”
This question sent waves through the community, especially after the administrators ignored the question and moved on to other topics. This raises the question: What do the administrators consider an extreme exigency, if not our current situation? Multiple other schools have already chosen to pass C/NC for their students, the prime example again being UT Austin.
Presidential Update: 11/27/2020
Two days later, the entire plan changed again. The President of the university, Richard C. Benson, emailed the students.
“I have been impressed by the sincere messages I have received from many of you expressing your concerns about University grading policies during this uniquely stressful time in your educational lives. Indeed, unique circumstances demand unique, creative, and flexible adaptations.”
He has asked the Academic Senate to meet again on December 2, to once again discuss the Credit/No Credit policies for the spring semester. This is a massive win for us as students. Even if we weren’t able to completely receive the answer we wanted, there’s another chance, and hopefully, we’ll get the opportunity to succeed our own way.