Twitter account @calduringcovid shares student hardships during virtual semester

Photo of someone on the #CalDuringCOVID twitter page
Jeong Yun Choi/Staff
The account has received more than 1,000 testimonials, according to James Weichert, chief of staff for the ASUC Office of the Academic Affairs Vice President.

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The ASUC Office of the Academic Affairs Vice President, or AAVP, launched a Twitter account Wednesday for UC Berkeley students to anonymously share their experiences regarding COVID-19 and academic policies.

The Twitter account @calduringcovid is managed by the AAVP’s office, which posts testimonials submitted by students about how COVID-19, distance learning, California wildfires and other factors have affected them this semester, according to James Weichert, chief of staff for AAVP.

“The account is a whole campaign that aims to counter the narrative that this is a normal semester and that we should proceed with normal academic policies,” Weichert said. “We hope that it raises awareness on the full range of difficulties that students are going through this semester and through that, creates pressure on the campus to do something about it.”

The account has received more than 1,000 testimonials from an academic accommodation survey circulated on the AAVP social media platforms two weeks ago. Testimonials are posted anonymously to encourage more students to open up about their experiences, according to Weichert.

An analysis of the testimonials submitted found that 50% mentioned the pass/no pass, or P/NP, grading option for classes and 30% mentioned the word “stress,” Weichert said.

Weichert added that there is an “incredibly” wide range of personal experiences and circumstances that students shared — both anonymously on the form and publicly on personal Twitter accounts — that the campaign strives to highlight.

Campus senior Hesham Jarmakani used #CalDuringCOVID in his tweet about cheating that occurs in his classes that are graded on a curve, the financial strains he faces and the need he feels for the P/NP grading option this semester.

“Having a P/NP grading option is a way of making sure everyone has a level playing field where people don’t feel stressed about trying to meet or get under the curve,” Jarmakani said. “I’m hoping that with this account, we’ll be able to put in all of our collective efforts and voices about this difficult semester in one consolidated area and try to get the administration to hear our concerns.”

Jarmakani added that he chose not to submit a testimonial anonymously because he believes being “publicly vulnerable” may encourage others to speak out with their concerns as well.

Campus sophomore Ashlee Agundiz tagged #CalDuringCOVID in her public tweet as well, which states that she is currently on academic probation and could not do schoolwork for five weeks while taking care of her mother. Agundiz said P/NP is necessary because vulnerable populations on campus would be at a “blatant disadvantage” without it.

“I hope my tweet and this account inspires people who feel comfortable enough and are in similar or worse situations as me to come forward and make their realities heard in this important conversation,” Agundiz said.

Contact Annika Kim Constantino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaKimC.