University faculty and administration are providing students with accommodations to ensure that students who test positive for COVID-19 feel supported academically during the semester.
While UNC has not issued any guidelines for providing students with extensions or grace periods for turning in assignments, several faculty members have decided to apply academic leniency for their specific courses.
“My philosophy this semester is to give students the structure they need to help them learn as much as possible, while also being flexible and mindful of the challenges of trying to learn in a pandemic,” Rosa Li, a professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience, said in an email.
Li is offering her students the opportunity to request extensions using an online form and to drop certain grades.
“That’s something I’ve always built into my grading system,” Li added. “Unexpected things happen even during normal times!”
Erring on the side of empathy
Mackenzie Peacock is a first-year neuroscience major who tested positive for COVID-19.
“The stress about packing everything up as quick as possible and moving to isolation was very overwhelming,” she said.
Peacock also said that she was initially worried that she wouldn’t have time to move effectively, but the class cancellations on Aug. 24 and 25 gave her the window she needed.
Hilary Lithgow, a professor in the department of English and comparative literature, said that her department has made it clear to err on the side of empathy and accommodation as much as possible this semester.
She said that in her classes she offers extensions without question, as students grapple not just with the exposure and infection, but with a sudden relocation caused by campus de-densification.
“I think it’s affecting everybody,” Lithgow said. “My only concern was making sure that people were able to keep up or be in a position to make back up what they missed.”
English department professor Cynthia Current said in an email that she is trying her best to accommodate students this semester — including being sympathetic for absences, offering deadline extensions or suggesting resources for anyone who may need them.
“I've made my syllabus slightly easier this semester because of missed days this past week, while still meeting all learning objectives to accommodate students as they move,” Current said.
Lithgow said she has heard from students about some professors failing to be understanding or reasonable.
“I definitely think that as a group, the faculty is not entirely on board in the way that they should be with the priorities here,” she said.
The Hussman School of Journalism and Media is also trying to provide support to students this semester, Susan King, dean of the school, said about her department in an email.
“Our faculty also realize that this virus poses unique challenges,” she said. “We recognize that everyone in our school community is affected — not just those who get sick — and our commitment to compassion extends to all of our students.”
Easier for students
UNC will provide University-approved absences to students in quarantine or self-isolation due to testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Carolina Together website.
“It is your choice to request UAA’s and not every student in isolation or quarantine may want or need them,” Media Relations said in an email.
Media Relations said that UNC Campus Health and the University Approved Absence Office are working together “to make requesting an approved absence easier for students.”
"If Campus Health is aware that a student has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in self-isolation or quarantine, Campus Health will contact the OUAA with this information," Media Relations said in an email.
According to the UNC class attendance policy, students who receive University Excused Absence must be provided with “reasonable alternatives that permit course objectives and learning outcomes to be met.” Alternatives may include make-up work, due date extensions, or additional projects of “equivalent intellectual effort.”
University-approved absences are sent immediately to professors but may take up to 10 business days to process.
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