ASUC Office of Academic Affairs seeks academic policy changes

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The office of the ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President is advocating for various campus academic policy changes for the fall semester in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning and California wildfires.

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The ASUC Office of the Academic Affairs is seeking to relax the pass/no pass, or P/NP, unit cap, among other academic policy recommendations for this semester.

On Saturday, ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President, or AAVP, Nicole Anyanwu tweeted a list of her office’s proposed accommodations, including extending the grade option change deadline, extending the add/drop deadline and relaxing the one-third P/NP unit cap. Such academic policy changes are being proposed in light of online learning, the COVID-19 pandemic and California wildfires, Anyanwu said in the tweet. 

According to Josh Lewis, head of policy for the AAVP, in addition to the aforementioned changes, the office is seeking to end mandatory webcam policies used by some professors, ensure asynchronous material remains available for students for the duration of the semester and ban weekend exams as alternative exam times.

“The idea that this semester is not unprecedented, that there is a precedent for this semester, is really kind of outdated and wrong,” Lewis said. “Being forced into an online-only scenario so rapidly last semester doesn’t mean that this semester’s kind of gradual introduction to online-only education makes it any easier.”

Lewis said online-only education disproportionately impacts students from the most vulnerable communities on campus, specifically students with disabilities, those struggling to meet basic needs and students who lack reliable internet access.

Before any final decisions are made, however, the short- and long-term consequences of proposed policy changes must be taken into consideration, said Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, in an email.

She noted that while pushing back the grade option change deadline and add/drop deadline is within the control of the campus, raising the P/NP unit cap would require approval at the UC systemwide level.

In the spring of 2020, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC San Diego each requested and received permission for classes taken P/NP that semester to not be factored into the overall proportion of P/NP units.

If UC Berkeley wished to extend that provision to this semester, campus administration and the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate would have to submit another request that may or may not be accepted, Johnson-Hanks said in the email.

Lewis remains optimistic that the policy recommendations his office put forth could be approved. He added that he hopes this will be “wrapped up relatively soon.”

“We want all students to know that the bad situation that has been created because of COVID-19 this semester isn’t just going unaddressed,” Lewis said. “No one is just kind of sitting back and letting the classist, racist implications of the pandemic go by without attempting to provide accommodations and mitigating factors this semester.”

Contact Kaleo Mark at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @kaleomark_dc.