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‘Not informed’: Students lack support amid strike grading adaptations

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As a result of the uncertainty of the UC-wide academic worker strike and UC Berkeley’s Academic Senate enacting new policies, many students have felt like they lack communication and academic support in their classes as finals season approaches.


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DECEMBER 04, 2022

Students lack information and guidance as grading formats changed due to new policies enacted by UC Berkeley’s Academic Senate amid the UC-wide academic worker strike.

Mary Ann Smart, chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, said some assessments have been adapted for easier grading without the presence of GSIs.

“Some people are moving to formats that can be graded on Gradescope or bCourses through automated grading; some people are moving to formats that might still be essay or short answer, but can be graded more quickly by the professor alone,” Smart said. “There’s a huge range of adaptations for assignments.”

Campus associate professor of English Maura Nolan is using “contract grading,” a system she said is more efficient than traditional grading. Essentially, students are given a contract that explains what they must do to obtain a certain grade; the professor then reads the essay or exam and assesses whether the student has successfully completed the assigned tasks.

The senate and Center for Teaching & Learning have produced an overwhelming amount of resources and guidance for faculty and instructors coping with institutional disruption, according to Nolan.

However, she noted that information is not always properly relayed to students.

“One of the most difficult and challenging aspects of the strike has been managing the rumor mill,” Nolan said in an email. “Students are being bombarded with contradictory and often false information about how grades will work, and it is no wonder that so many feel incredibly stressed and anxious.”

Nolan added that professors will deal with grading in their own ways and outside sources may not be reliable in regards to course proceedings.

Smart emphasized the importance of communicating messages to students.

“Every message I’ve seen or written says in some part that it’s extremely important to communicate your expectations clearly,” Smart said. “If you’re making changes, communicate them clearly and quickly.”

A guide from the Center for Teaching & Learning noted it is pertinent that students are updated despite the fact that certainty is not entirely possible at the moment, according to Smart.

However, some students don’t believe this communication is being upheld.

“We are not very informed,” said a Statistics 134 student, who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation, in an email. “Most professors are not giving out formal announcements yet because they do not know themselves what is going on.”

The student said students lack communication and academic support in their classes. When asked, professors say they are unsure about the plans for the future of classes because no one knows what the length or the outcome of the strike will be, they alleged.

Students in Statistics 134 allegedly had a take-home midterm scheduled right after the strike began, which resulted in “absolutely no preparation sections” for the midterm, the student noted. They added that due to the absence of academic workers to grade for a class of more than 200 people, the professor announced students would be grading their own midterms.

“Most people feel very anxious and depressed because we don’t know what to expect or how to study for finals, let alone the fact that there’s no support such as discussion or OH,” the student said in an email. “We have no opportunity to ask questions and are pretty much self-learning the material.”

Smart will respond to these concerns with a new message she will send to faculty tomorrow with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.

The message will contain extensive advice and information on how to conduct exams, according to Smart. While this message goes out every year, it will be more “involved and complete” this year, she added.

“We suggest that instructors convey clear information about what materials students are expected to master for exams, and that (they) take care to design exams that test only on material that (they) have been able to teach thoroughly this semester,” Smart said. “That’s sort of a new piece that instructors haven’t been told quite as clearly as before.”

Contact Carolyn Yu at 


DECEMBER 04, 2022