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New withdrawal date in, new grading option out as result of academic senate meeting with Foothill

Rejected grading tool spurs controversy over students' responsibility

Jasmin Bodmer

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The De Anza College Academic Senate held a joint meeting with the Foothill Academic Senate on Feb. 26 in Conference Room B. The main issues on the agenda were the F/W grade and the withdrawal date. Discussion, but no action, took place on the district budget for the upcoming term.

F/W grade option

A motion to adopt the F/W grade as an additional grading tool failed to pass with 10 votes for and 20 votes against the proposal.

The F/W grade was designed by the statewide Academic Senate and Board of Governors to give instructors an additional grading tool. Instructors would have permission, but would not be obliged, to award an F/W grade to a student who leaves class after the official last date to withdraw but before the final exam. The F/W would be calculated as an F and treated equally towards one’s GPA.

Some welcomed this option, saying that the F/W grade would be a signal of late withdrawal on the students’ part rather than poor performance on the final exam.

According to Larry Rouse, president of the Foothill academic senate and instructor for business and the social science division, there was a difference between a student giving his or her best throughout the quarter and still failing on the final and a student “not taking advantage of this enormous resource, this incredibly subsidized education [we have].”

However, the F/W grade option still is surrounded by controversy. Laurel Torres, counselor and supported education specialist, said there are two extremes to the F/W grade.

According to Torres, students should be given as much latitude as possible to explain their grades. However, she sees a potentially punitive effect if a transcript includes a F/W as it “introduces doubt.” The system should work in ways to benefit students and offer them the least punitive [grading] options, said Torres.

Some criticized that the F/W grade might increase student irresponsibility and lead them to take advantage of the opportunity that courses can be retaken.

Rouse reflected on the question of academic ability versus student responsibility and said that the F/W grade would be a deterrent for students to flake out and would send a message to students that they should take advantage of the academic opportunities they are given and try hard to perform to the best of their abilities in any class.

According to Rouse, community colleges are recruiting students who are underprepared and don’t have the culture of responsibility. He said that the lifestyle of today’s students causes irresponsible behavior in academia as many students are in “survival mode” financially and work too many hours.

They are not prepared for the stress they inevitably face and eventually just let stress take over and “flake out” thinking that they’ll get at least a C the next time they take the class.

“We should be sending a signal that consequences and that reputations are very important, said Rouse. “In our American culture we’re in great in many ways; materialistically, resourcefully and multiculturally, but we’re not great in creating values of responsibility and respect for authority. I don’t mean respect in an authoritarian way. [I mean] respect for the instructors’ wisdom, so that they can be our allies and can help us in this very challenging journey. For me, the F/W would have helped this process.”

De Anza Faculty Senate president Kathy Plum also voted for the adoption of the motion. She said for her it would have been another way to grade students who stop coming to class. For her, the F/W grade would have indicated that students sometimes just “flake out and disappear.”

Currently, students who miss the last day to withdraw can obtain an incomplete for their class if they can prove extenuating circumstances such as a personal crisis or an emergency that led to poor academic performance on their part.

Change of withdrawal date

The only other issue on the agenda that came to a vote was the withdrawal date for De Anza and Foothill College. A motion to unify the last date to withdraw to the end of eighth week for both colleges was adopted with 27 for and three against the proposal.

Previously, the last day to drop at De Anza was at the end of the seventh week and at the end of the ninth week for Foothill

Co-enrollment has risen in recent years, with about 100 to 200 students currently attending one or more classes at Foothill College each quarter, Vice President Judy Miner informed the Joint Academic Senate.

Some senators expressed hope that the unified last day to withdraw would minimize student confusion, especially for co-enrollment students and distance learning students who take classes online.

The new last day to withdraw will take effect for the fall quarter 2001.

Discussion on the district budget update revolved mainly around the poor budget projections for 2001-2002 and possibilities to save costs and reduce the projected deficit.

According to the Academic Senate minutes, the current plan is to “use the existing governance structures to identify areas to consider for possible reductions in advance of the actual actions to cut.”

Other business

It was further noted that “PfE dollars may or may not be on the table depending on Governor Gray Davis’ revised budget in May.” Additional growth was discussed as a potential to maximize state fundings.

Plum said she thinks the joint academic senate meetings are helpful to talk about differences and come together about issues such as grades and withdrawal dates. The next joint meeting will be in March, according to Plum.

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