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Petition calling for grade leniency for Black students draws 43,000 signatures amid unrest

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Petition calling for grade leniency for Black students draws 13,000 signatures amid unrest

As protesters walk up Spring Street in downtown Seattle, they raise up their hands in non-violent protest, chanting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” This referenced instances where Black Americans were killed even through they did not act violently.

As protests across the country have galvanized the nation following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in recent months, a petition has circulated on campus calling for academic accommodations for Black UW students, drawing more than 43,000 signatures, as of Thursday afternoon.

“We are tired of empty words and promises,” the petition, posted by student Mihret Haile, reads. “We are tired of sentimental emails that do not materialize. Give us equitable responses that meet our needs now!”

In an email drafted by Alejandra Puerto and several other students to UW President Ana Mari Cauce and faculty, students demanded the university make some changes to their final grading policies. The email went on to say that it was “inhumane” for the UW to ask students to set aside their fears at this time to focus on schoolwork. 

They described the unique hardships Black students face as COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on the Black community while also having to witness “the blatant killing of their peers by people set to ‘protect and serve.’” 

The email called for the cancellation of all finals and assignments for the rest of quarters, saying that they “would not be a true reflection of many students’ capabilities.”

Other demands included assurance that no student will receive a failing grade and increased leniency in the Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory (S/NS) grading option.

UW spokesperson Victor Balta said the faculty senate is currently looking at a proposal that will allow S grades earned this quarter to count toward degree and graduation requirements even if they go over the 25 credit limit currently placed on S grades. Enrolled students will receive an email June 17 confirming whether this measure is approved.

“As we approach the final weeks of the quarter, we are asking instructors to be mindful of their students’ needs — especially those who are members of the Black community — and provide accommodations as requested or appropriate, such as extra time to finish assignments or a ‘final examination optional’ approach,” Balta wrote in an email.

Psychology professor Nicole McNichols, for example, decided to make some changes to her grading structure, canceling all assignments for the rest of the quarter, awarding all students full points, and giving them all the option to drop their lowest exam score.

An email template has also been circulating on social media urging professors to make accommodations for Black students.

“Now is the time for faculty like you to demonstrate what uplifting black students during a time of anguish and resistance really means,” the template reads, going on to ask instructors to work with students individually to come up with a plan that fits their needs.

Demonstrations in Seattle over the weekend ended with looting of downtown businesses and dozens of arrests after peaceful protests turned sour as the afternoon wore on.

ASUW President Kelty Pierce noted the “heavy and serious impact” this past week has had on Black community members in a message to students.

“I recognize that this institution and others across the country were not built to serve marginalized students, specifically Black students,” Pierce wrote. “Still to this day, institutions such as UW, do not serve Black students to the same capacity that white students benefit from.”

Cauce, meanwhile, has sent multiple messages to the campus community in the past week on the situation, saying in a Monday morning announcement: “In this community, in our community, we can and we will continue our work to address issues of equity, racism and bias.”

“The veil has been lifted. We cannot give up — or go back,” Cauce, whose brother was killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party in 1979, added. “My brother has been murdered next to yours, leaving a hole in my heart and life that can never be filled. And to you and all Black students, faculty and staff, while I can only imagine what it’s like to walk in your shoes because my light skin protects me from your terror, I can and will walk with you.”

Reach Science Editor Ash Shah and News Editor Jake Goldstein-Street at Twitter: @itsashshah @GoldsteinStreet

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(1) comment

eddy mattox

This is so insulting to every black person on that campus.

It's just more leftist bigotry of low expectations.

White leftists treat black people like exotic pets that need their benevolent coddling in order to survive in this world. That's garbage.

The last thing in the world any black student needs is some woke professor telling them that they're not smart enough to succeed and need special favors. That's the most racist thing you could possibly say.

The infantilizing, patronizing woke left has to be stopped by any means necessary.

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