As I discussed awhile ago, the teaching assistants at my alma mater, the University of Oregon, were discussing going on strike over the university’s refusal to provide them paid sick leave. In response, the university threw academic integrity out the window and threatened to allow students to have their current grade be the grade for the course and encouraged professors to give scantron finals. Well, the TAs did go on strike and the university has moved forward with its plans. For one, the university is threatening TAs (or GTFFs as they are called in Eugene) on foreign visas with deportation if they strike. That’s a pretty low blow.
The faculty union has come out in support of their TAs. Here is its statement:
Today, the University of Oregon administration escalated its tactics against the striking graduate employees that will have profoundly negative implications for undergraduates.
The College of Arts and Sciences decreed unilaterally that final examinations and end-of-term assignments will be optional in graduate-assisted courses taught in the Departments of Linguistics, Philosophy, and Ethnic Studies.
If the GTFF strike continues after Dec. 12, the Associate Dean for Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences will assign all grades in the affected courses, based on only a portion of the graded assignments and tests listed in course syllabi. In the Department of Philosophy, the department head and all graduate instructors have been removed as instructors of record. More departments may suffer a similar fate.
This course of action threatens to damage the mentorship between teachers and students, relations of trust among colleagues, and between the university community and the administration. It also interferes with the ability of teachers to do what they do best: to educate students. This harms students who hoped to improve their grades with end-of-term writing assignments and final examinations.
The apparent goal of this attack is to break the GTFF and not, as the administration insists, to maintain “academic continuity.”
Every effort by faculty members and the university senate to deal with the problem of assigning grades during the strike in a manner that upholds the professional integrity of teachers and the expectations set out in course syllabi has been rejected.
Furthermore, because the administration has declared final examinations to be optional, grades will not have the same value for all students.
Such callous disregard for academic freedom and the welfare of students forces faculty and students between a rock and a hard place. Rather than work with faculty to create meaningful options for grades to be delayed, the administration has chosen to compromise the integrity of undergraduate education at the University of Oregon.
I have a bit more information. I was forwarded an e-mail from the Associate Dean of Humanities, Judith Baskin. At the request of the person who sent it, I have redacted the course name this e-mail applies to. It reads as follows:
I am responsible for ensuring that you receive a timely grade for
the work you have done in [COURSE NAME].
On the Academic Affairs website
(affairs.uoregon.edu/academic-continuity ) the Provost has advised
that students in courses taught or supported by GTFs may be given the
option to forgo the final assignment/exam and take their current grade
in the course.
Please be advised that should the GTFF strike continue to Dec. 12, I
will enter the grade you achieved in [COURSE NAME] up to December 1 as
your approximate grade for Fall term. This grade will be based on the
grading information given to me by your Instructor. If you wish you
may accept this grade as your final grade. In that case, you need
not complete any further work for this course and the grade I entered
will not be altered.
* If this is your preference please send me an email to that effect
(firstname.lastname@example.org) by date XXXX. Be sure to include your name,
student number, and the course number and name; you may include your
understanding of what the final grade would be. I regret that,
given the large number of courses with which I am working, I cannot
give you the grade I will be entering at this time but I assure you
that it will be based on the information your Instructor supplied for
work competed as of Dec. 1.
* You have the option to complete the final exam / assignment as
described on your course syllabus and/or by your Instructor. You may
submit that work either to the Department of [BLANK] or electronically (if this was your Instructor’s
preference) by the date and time assigned by your Instructor. At such
time as your work is graded, the approximate grade will be replaced by
a grade based on all your course work, including the final
assignment/exam. If you have any questions, please feel to email me
(email@example.com) or contact me via Blackboard.
Judith R. Baskin, Philip H. Knight Professor of Humanities
Associate Dean for Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences
So there you have it. “You may include your understanding of what the final grade may be.” Great! Tell me you are getting an A and then I don’t have to bother looking it up. And why even bother taking a final? Just go celebrate the Ducks’ victory at Rennie’s! (a local bar) Now this is some academic integritude!