Rutgers University early termination of Spring 2020 semester with ‘A’ grades for students.

Rutgers University early termination of Spring 2020 semester with ‘A’ grades for students.

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Rutgers Student started this petition to Administration of Rutgers University

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  • Grant grades of ‘A’s to all students for the Spring 2020 semester. This option should be provided to students who may have already withdrawn due to the current crisis.
  • Early termination of classes for the remainder of the semester starting in April

Rutgers University announced the change of policy to offering students Pass/Fail options on March 20th. However, the following day Governor Murphy signed an executive "Stay at Home Order" due to the increasing presence of Covid-19 within the State. At that time, NJ’s Covid-19 cases were numbering in the dozens but are now increasing in the tens of thousands. Since mid-March New Jersey’s situation with regards to Covid-19 has worsened considerably.

Even though the pass/fail option was offered, we the students of Rutgers University do not believe that this accommodation will suffice for most of the student population. Students at Rutgers University form a very diverse student body with students from all over the world. Some students rely on services that are not available now due to the institution’s switch to an Online curriculum. Many of us relied on other services on campus to do well on classes such as tutoring, CAPS, accommodations, and disability services for example. Often, many students have busy schedules and cannot attend every office hour made available. Therefore, students relied on the additional resources Rutgers provided prior such as Rutgers Learning Community at Kreegers, Learning Assistants, and school specific tutoring which provided supplemental instruction to aid students in courses. All of these are necessary to help students learn new material and are an integral part of the learning process, especially when students need additional help beyond office hours when material can be especially difficult to master. Every student has his/her own learning style utilizing the variety of resources made available to them.  Currently, we cannot fully utilize these additional campus resources and this directly affects our ability to perform in classes.

Furthermore, a lot of our academic programs which we are pursuing require letter grades for professional or graduate education, and many of us are looking for employment after graduation this semester. Offering students an option to pass/fail instead of letter grades places a disadvantage on students choosing this option in industry and future academic pursuits due to the competitive nature of job applications and graduate/professional academics. Students have to make efforts to stand out not only in academics but in other extracurricular activities as well.  Giving pass fail grades is counterproductive in this pursuit and we do not believe that those of us pursuing competitive jobs/academics should be forced to retain the letter grade option in an effort to maintain our competitiveness. This is exacerbated by having to navigate the challenging restrictions of anti Covid-19 efforts and it would not be fair to ask students in this environment the additional responsibility of finishing classes while being handicapped by the current restrictions. Thus, we are asking Rutgers to grant students course grades of ‘A’ for the current semester as well as early termination of Spring semester classes in order to help relieve some of this pressure which is necessary in helping us maintain good mental health and focusing more on immediate efforts to combat the Covid-19 virus; (some medical schools have allowed early graduation, freeing up medical students to serve as doctors on the front lines) We believe Rutgers University should do the same as many of our students serve in EMTs squads, medical scribes, and volunteer in hospitals.

As mentioned, many Rutgers students are involved with other issues regarding the NJ state restrictions dealing with the primary prevention of Covid-19. Non-essential businesses are no longer viable to operate under regular operating conditions. Many students that were originally part/full time workers may no longer be receiving income to support themselves and their family and they have been involved in other activities, responsibilities, and community involvement as well. Mentioned prior, many of us already work in the healthcare industry aiding to manage the crisis. Many of us have loved ones who are under our care and now need our attention more than ever. With the resource shortage currently in the country in combating this crisis in both equipment and manpower, a lot of us have stood up to do our part in the community. All of us to some extent have had to make sacrifices, difficult choices, adjust schedules, as well shift priorities with this ever-changing situation.

Thus, some of us may not be able to complete this semester, even with a pass/fail option due to the challenging demands placed on us during this trying time. Many of us know people who are affected or have family/friends who are affected by the crisis. Having already paid for tuition, needing to withdraw is not an option for many of us who have careers, graduate/professional school, and internships already lined up or planned, all which require a completion of the current academic semester. This places unnecessary demands on the student in this environment as we struggle to maintain our academics and affects our general mental health.

This is especially true for those of us involved in managing the crisis on the front lines, whether they work/volunteer as health care providers or caring for loved ones affected or others with special needs. New Jersey is the second worst of the states hit by the crisis and is projected to become worse before better. Currently, as already stated by our elected officials, our state is affected at a rate that is five times higher than the rest of the country due to its proximity to NYC and the fact that we are the densest state in the nation. In addition, we have an acute resource shortage in managing the crisis and we need to allow those of us involved on the front lines to be able to focus on dealing with the situation. This is especially stressful for those of us working in this sector and having to also take online classes in a reduced capacity at the same time.

Asking students under all costs to finish the semester is not reasonable in these circumstances and is also counterproductive for our efforts to help control the situation. Undoubtedly, many of us have classes which require group work, senior design classes, lab courses, and projects which require proper in-person collaborative efforts. This places us in an unfortunate circumstance of compromising our ability to maintain social distancing in order to complete academic projects. Some assignments simply require group effort that is very difficult to complete without face to face interaction. Too often the students bear the brunt of having to make adjustments and many resort to self-study which negatively affects our educational experience; the face to face access to professors and TA’s during office hours has become limited and does not offer the same interactive and immersive quality for example. Students simply cannot be expected to perform or complete the same for courses which require this face to face interaction such as recitation, senior design, projects, lab classes where students learn by doing and are expected to demonstrate proficiency via assessments and exercises. Simply put, we no longer have access to some of these components in some classes, and in others in a greatly diminished capacity. From this, we are advocating for early termination of Spring semester classes with grades of ‘A’ given to students.

The University of Rutgers should not have a policy which currently seems like that of continuing classes at all costs, when currently we are the 2nd worst affected state in the nation. Rutgers priority should be the overall well being for the students. Switching to online classes is a good step, but it is not enough to reflect New Jersey’s current situation adequately. Over the course of the next couple of weeks the situation is expected to worsen. Expecting students to finish out the semester in this manner is not reasonable after we have already made sacrifices and paid tuition to earn good letter grades this semester. Sacrificing only one month of classes out of the many years in our study should not overall affect our academic experience here at Rutgers and is a reasonable expectation in this time.

In short, each of us have individual circumstances that have made managing this difficult. Mentioned prior, many of us have loved ones we need to tend to, others are working as providers, and some of us are experiencing technical difficulties. While we do not believe that every situation can be individually redressed, there are some measures that we believe can alleviate the situation and will give us breathing room to allow us to handle the crisis as best as possible, in addition to boosting the spirit of the student body as well as faculty.

With New Jersey's current situation, the responsible adjustment Rutgers should make for its student and faculty bodies would be to terminate the Spring semester starting in April and grant students a grade of ‘A’ for Spring semester courses.

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At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!