The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 26th

'See from our perspective': Students petition chemistry department for support

<p>DTH Photo Illustration. Students such as those in CHEM102 are struggling to adapt to the transition to online classes as professors continue to make adjustments to their courses and test formats.</p>
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. A petition for UNC's chemistry department to acknowledge student concerns of overworking and mental health has gained over 900 signatures.

Over 900 students have signed an ongoing petition for UNC's chemistry department to acknowledge student demands about mental health and workload. 

Students are advocating for fairness and respect for their well-being by asking the department to lower the difficulty levels of exams. The petition also argues that, while the difficulty of exams increases, the quality of teaching is decreasing due to remote learning. 

“We only ask that you would try to see from our perspective and to reconcile some of the hardships that online learning has brought upon this University,” the students said in the petition. 

In the fall semester, the chemistry department introduced a linear format for online exams, meaning students could not return to previous questions. Many students expressed frustration with the additional stress that this testing format caused. This testing format is just one of the concerns that students expressed in this latest petition. 

Ruthie Froning, a sophomore biology major, said she studied for two weeks, attended review sessions and used practice tests — only for her latest chemistry exam to have questions that did not correlate to what she studied. 

Other students have expressed anger at the chemistry department’s lack of regard for student well-being when assigning classwork. 

Lauren Jelic, a junior biology major, said that her experiences taking CHEM 101: General Descriptive Chemistry I in person and CHEM 102: General Descriptive Chemistry II online were shockingly different.

She said the department sometimes gives out outdated practice exams and class activities that don’t match up with exam material. And she said the exams keep getting progressively harder.

Jelic said she was ready for the difficulty of taking STEM classes at UNC, but not for the lack of in-class aid, or "busy work" with no preparation for exams. 

“I expect the material and the class to be hard, so it's just more support,” she said. “My personal main requests are to feel like I'm actually being taught in the class and then have practice with the stuff I was taught in class.”

The Daily Tar Heel requested an interview with Wei You, chairperson of the chemistry department, to address these concerns.

“The chemistry department is not able to respond to generalized and anonymous demands. All chemistry department faculty are committed to meeting with concerned students on an individual basis to develop strategies for success," You said in a statement in response to the request. 

Professors of the classes referenced in this story did not respond to requests for comment. 

Sophomore biology major Hanna Morrill said the jump from in-person learning to remote learning was rough for her. She said she didn’t expect the department's lack of grace or sympathy for students. 

Morrill said that because of the lack of resources like rubrics and cohesive study materials, she thinks some of the grades she received were unfair. She wasn't taught all the necessary material, she said. 

“After the exams are graded, you'll see points deducted here, here and here and they'll list out why underneath it,” Morrill said. “How was I supposed to know that I was supposed to add that detail? It wasn't spelled out anywhere for me.” 

Students asked the department to treat them with decency and understanding in the petition. They asked for a reduced level of difficulty on exams "to better reflect what is being taught in the classroom." 

"As a student body, we are only seeking fairness, justice, and peace for our minds and our souls," the students said in the petition. 

The full petition can be found here.

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