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Options for Final Assessments and Grading

Academic Senate


To: Faculty

What you need to know:


Dear Colleagues:

In the event that the UAW strike is not resolved before the end of the Fall term, we write to offer guidance about grading and final examinations.

The Academic Senate and faculty are not involved in the negotiations between the University of California administration and the union. However, instructors need to make decisions about evaluating student work and submitting grades in the current work environment. Messages about faculty rights and obligations may be challenging to reconcile, and students and instructors are relating to the strike in a variety of ways. In this context, we aim to clarify some options related to the evaluation and grading of coursework. At the end of this message are more specific details about graduate courses. We also refer you to guidance from the UC Systemwide Academic Senate leadership (PDF), which we recently circulated by email.

Adjusting Final Assessments

Students expect to be evaluated according to the methods announced in the syllabus. Under Senate regulations, instructors may neither cancel previously announced final assessments nor fundamentally change the method of final assessment (e.g., if the syllabus said an exam would be given, the final assessment must be an exam, not a research paper, and vice versa). However, instructors may alter form and content of the final assessment to reflect current circumstances. Options that instructors may consider, in their discretion, include:

(a) Exam formats can be shifted to a shorter, more structured format (such as multiple choice) to facilitate student preparation and timely grading.

(b) Instructors can use “no harm” exams, exam questions, papers, or other assessments that students may choose to opt out of. “No harm” means that the assessment only counts if it improves the student’s grade (otherwise the grade is based on previously submitted work). This option may reduce student stress and grading effort while still being fair to students seeking a chance to improve their grades.

(c) Exams may be offered remotely rather than in person. Note that the following Senate regulation sentence remains suspended: “Final written examinations shall not exceed three hours’ duration and shall be given only at the times and places established by the departmental Chair and the Registrar.” This suspension gives instructors some flexibility about the time and place of a final written exam.

(d) A timed in-class exam may be replaced with a timed take-home exam that gives all students a total amount of time long enough to incorporate all time accommodations approved by the Center for Accessible Education. For example, if an instructor provides 24 hours for students to complete a 2-hour exam, a CAE student with a 150% time accommodation would be allowed to take 3 hours within that 24-hour window to complete the exam, but the instructor does not have to provide a window of 36 hours. Some CAE students may qualify for an extended window of time to take the exam, which must be indicated on their accommodation letter via an extension or absence accommodation. Instructors with questions about accommodations can reach out to CAE for help.

(e) For a final paper, an instructor could consider altering the page limit or evaluating based on a focused stage in the writing process (e.g., assigning a detailed outline or annotated bibliography in lieu of a typical research paper, or assigning a revision plan for a previous paper).

Regular P/NP and drop rules remain in effect.

Additional options and ideas are available from CAT and CEILS.

Submitting Grades

At this time, we do not know when grade submission deadlines will be. We have requested an extension. Please watch your inbox for a notice from the Registrar.

For undergraduate students, the impact of delayed submission of grades grows with the length of the delay. Specific groups of students, such as veterans and athletes, may find their benefits and eligibility impacted by even modest delays. Longer delays will affect students who need grades for scholarship, job and grad school applications, and awarding of degrees.

It may be helpful to review UCLA grade definitions . Grades of I (Incomplete) may be used only when an individual student’s circumstance causes them to not submit work on time - "An instructor may assign the I grade when work is of passing quality but is incomplete for a good cause (such as illness or other serious problem)." Grades of I become part of a student’s permanent record and should never be given because of delays in evaluating student work. Along similar lines, DR grades should be given only when there is a question of academic dishonesty, never as an indication of a delayed grade for other reasons. If you are unable to assign grades, you may elect to not submit them or use the NR grade.

Please also see guidance from the UC Systemwide Academic Senate leadership (PDF), which elaborates on the “principle of sufficiency for consideration of the academic work.”

Faculty Obligations and Discretion

The Faculty Code of Conduct (APM – 015) identifies as “unacceptable conduct” for Senate faculty a “significant failure to adhere, without legitimate reason, to the rules of the faculty in the conduct of courses, to meet class, to keep office hours, or to hold examinations as scheduled.” It also observes that “The integrity of the faculty-student relationship is the foundation of the University’s educational mission.” How instructors maintain the multiplicity of faculty-student relationships and our ethical obligations under current conditions will vary. As recent guidance from the UC Systemwide Academic Senate leadership (PDF) states, “The language of the APM foresees the possible complexities of our obligations and gives faculty space to exercise our professional judgment.”

Grading Graduate Coursework

Given that some graduate students may be withholding participation in academic courses as part of their involvement in the strike we clarify some options related to evaluation and grading of graduate coursework. Underlying these options are two important factors: 1) faculty have a large degree of professional responsibility and authority to determine how to evaluate research done for academic credit; and 2) graduate student workers must not face retaliation for striking. Senate faculty are approaching this situation from many perspectives, and this communication is not intended to suggest which views faculty should hold but rather to outline options that may be helpful to students and faculty taking various positions.

  • Didactic Graduate Courses (courses numbered 200-299 and 400-499, which are unrelated to employment as a TA or GSR)
    Students are expected to continue making academic progress in didactic courses, regardless of participation in the strike. The default is that didactic graduate courses should be evaluated as described in the course syllabus.

    If a graduate student has not continued making academic progress and/or does not complete final course requirements, the instructor may assign a letter grade or, if they so choose, assign an Incomplete (I) grade. The latter would indicate that the instructor will allow the student to make up work. Be aware that if work is not completed by the next full term in residence, the I grade automatically lapses to an F or U as appropriate. If the grade lapses to an F or U, students may complete the work in a subsequent quarter with permission of the instructor and file to have the lapsed F or U grade removed and replaced with the earned grade.
  • Teacher Training Courses (courses numbered 300–399)
    Final grade assignment is the responsibility of the instructor. Instructors may wish to consider student performance up to the point of the strike and assign a grade based on that work. That is, if the enrolled student was fulfilling their duties satisfactorily up to this point, then issuing a satisfactory grade could be seen as appropriate. Because the UAW considers withholding participation from these courses a protected activity for TAs, issuance of unsatisfactory grades in the context of a strike could result in UAW claims of unfair labor practices. (Please note that this information is provided for context only and is not intended to impact grading.)
  • Individual Study and Research Courses (courses numbered 500–599)
    Final grade assignment is the responsibility of the instructor. The UC Systemwide Administration (PDF) and the UC Systemwide Senate (PDF) have indicated that that graduate students participating in the strike are still expected to complete academic work. Because the UAW considers withholding participation from these courses a protected activity for Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs), issuance of unsatisfactory grades in the context of a strike may result in UAW claims of unfair labor practices. (Again, please note that this information is provided for context only and is not intended to impact grading.)

It is our hope to offer options that help instructors make decisions in ways that serve our undergraduate and graduate students. We recognize that instructors in this situation can find themselves holding conflicting values and that there will be variation in how they act. We recommend clear communication with your students at this time.

Kathy Bawn
Chair, Undergraduate Council

James Bisley
Chair, Graduate Council

Jessica Cattelino
Chair, UCLA Academic Senate

Andrea Kasko
Vice Chair/Chair-Elect, Academic Senate

Shane White
Immediate Past Chair, Academic Senate


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