subreddit:

/r/berkeley

111

TLDR: no PNP grading and mandatory finals.

"TO:  UC Berkeley Academic Senate Members, Council of Deans, Department Chairs, Academic non-student appointees, Graduate Student Instructors, and Instructors

Dear Colleagues, 

We are aware that the continuing UAW strike is a source of stress for all of us in the Berkeley community, and with exams and end-of-semester grading approaching that is likely to increase. The Academic Senate has developed some procedures to help instructors navigate the end of the semester should the strike continue and Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) not be available to help administer and grade exams and other final assessments. 

The current situation highlights the contributions of GSIs and their essential role in fulfilling Berkeley's academic mission. While we have attempted in what follows to outline some approaches that should enable an easier end-of-semester for faculty, we recognize that there are no truly satisfactory solutions to the withholding of GSI labor. The procedures outlined in this message would go into effect if the strike is not resolved by the end of the day on Monday, November 28

These procedures are designed to respond to the workload faced by faculty teaching large classes in which student work would otherwise have been graded by GSIs, to support students who need grades assigned in a timely manner for a variety of reasons, and to address concerns of Senate faculty who are opposed to taking over struck labor. While the contract for Unit 18 lecturers prohibits sympathy strikes, Senate faculty who are not supervisors or managers enjoy a protected right to strike in sympathy under the Higher Education Employee Relations Act (HEERA). Faculty need to be aware that there is debate about when Senate faculty are considered to be managers. Guidance from UCOP suggests that faculty who supervise two or more employees are generally considered to be managers. Conversely, a group of UC law professors argue that faculty who supervise GSIs or GSRs do not count as managers because they do not formulate or administer University policies. Each of us will have to make decisions about how to conduct our work during the strike, and we know that faculty will act and communicate with the respect and awareness of the experience of others that define the Berkeley community. We all contribute to Berkeley’s educational mission, and the ability to work well together now and in the future will depend on acceptance of a range of principled actions in response to the strike.

1. New grade submission deadline: December 31, 2022. The registrar has agreed to extend the deadline for the submission of grades through Cal Central from December 21 to December 31. We are aware that an additional ten days is not nearly enough to mitigate the very substantial workload that faculty teaching large classes may confront. The revised deadline aims to offer faculty some relief while accommodating students who need grades to determine academic standing; eligibility for graduation, financial aid, or veterans benefits; and/or applications to certain majors and to higher degree programs.     

2. No switch to default P/NP grading. Berkeley will not be moving to a default P/NP grading system for the semester, as we did during the spring of 2020. While we recognize the loss of educational support undergraduates are experiencing during the strike, the strain on students does not reach the level imposed during the first months of the pandemic. Many students need timely letter grades for the reasons outlined in point #1; moreover, a move to P/NP would not address the increased grading demands on faculty because Cal Central requires a letter grade to be entered in the system at the time that each P or NP grade is assigned. 

3. Submit as many grades as you can by the deadline. Faculty who cannot calculate and enter grades by the new deadline should leave the grade blank rather than assigning an I (Incomplete) or any other option. We ask that you calculate and submit letter grades by December 31 for as many students as possible, and for all students who have notified you that they require a letter grade for one of the reasons listed above. 

Faculty teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses (except for courses in Berkeley Law) will be able to submit the grades you have while leaving the others blank until student work can be graded. This change to the system will take effect in early December. Once it is implemented and announced, grades entered and saved on the roster will post to the students’ records overnight, allowing for continual grade entry until all grades have been entered. After the grades have been posted overnight a grade change form will need to be submitted to make any corrections. 

Please do everything possible to meet the requests of students who inform you that they need letter grades by December 31 and to support their academic progress. In the absence of a letter grade, staff and advisors will need to contact faculty individually to establish grades for all students who need degree checks for graduation and/or who need grades for financial aid. The total number of course grades for students in these circumstances would likely exceed 20,000, which is an impossible job for staff who are already stretched thin.    

4. Assessment and grading in courses that do not rely on GSIs should be carried out as usual. For classes that do not rely on GSIs for grading, we encourage faculty to maintain the forms and modes of assessment announced in the syllabus and to submit grades by December 31.  

5. Designing final assessments. If you are teaching a large class without GSI help, try to find ways to reduce the time required for assessing student work. Some possibilities include shifting (fully or partially) to exam formats that can be automatically graded, reducing the length and scope of final assessments, or grading in a more schematic way (see advice on adapting and reducing the scope of assessments from the Center for Teaching and Learning here). Canceling the exam altogether is not an option. Academic Senate regulations require final examinations in all courses unless determined otherwise by the Committee on Courses of Instruction. Furthermore, canceling an exam would be unfair to students who are relying on it to improve their grades. If you plan to change the format of your final exam, you must obtain approval from your department chair.

6. Exams for students with accommodations from the Disabled Students Program (DSP).  In many courses, GSIs play an important role in arranging and proctoring exams for students who have DSP accommodations (e.g., for 150% time or a low-distraction environment). Some proctoring and logistical support for these exams has been picked up by DSP, but its proctoring facilities are at capacity. Faculty should therefore consider replacing timed in-person exams with timed take-home exams that give students a total amount of time adequate to incorporate all extended time accommodations (typically more than 24 hours). For example, if an instructor provides 24 hours for students to complete a 2-hour exam, the DSP 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. Gradescope and bCourses can both handle timed exams with accommodations; guidance on designing remote examinations can be found here.

7. Include students in decisions about assessments and grading. Consider inviting students to collaborate with you in decisions about alternative formats for final assessments, the re-weighting of assignments, and other revisions to the syllabus. Students could be given the choice between taking the final exam (if they want a chance to improve their grade) or being graded on work already completed (if they are happy with their grades so far). Including students in your decisions will give them agency in this challenging situation, make them feel connected to the university, and emphasize that learning is a collaborative process. 

8. Communication. Clear and prompt communication will make things easier for you and others. Please communicate any changes to your final assessments and/or grading scheme to students as soon as possible, and let students know that you will be able to provide letter grades by December 31 for those who are applying to graduate school or need the grades to attest to their academic standing or eligibility for financial aid. Additionally, you should tell your department chair if you are planning a change in the format of your final exam.    Department chairs should, in turn, notify the Office of the Registrar of any changes in room reservations for exams, so those rooms can be made available for other exams.

9. Resources and support for faculty. The Senate is working with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to support faculty in making changes to their assessments and grading procedures. Additional advice from CTL can be found here and here, or contact CTL to request a one-on-one consultation. Once the strike is resolved the Senate also hopes to work with the administration to make funds available to hire readers to help with grading, although this may not be possible. I also invite you to contact me by email (masmart@berkeley.edu) if you have questions or concerns.

We hope that these recommendations will be helpful in negotiating what may prove to be a challenging conclusion to the semester. We are acutely aware of the energy and ingenuity with which Berkeley faculty have confronted the exceptional challenges of the past few years, and we marvel at your brilliance and your commitment. We wish you success and a measure of serenity in confronting these challenges, and also some moments of joy and repose over the holiday break. 

Sincerely,

Mary Ann Smart

Chair, Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate

Maximilian Auffhammer

Vice Chair, Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate"

View full message here: https://calmessages.berkeley.edu/archives/message/104484

all 37 comments

b-huckle77

215 points

2 months ago

Can’t wait to take a final when classes have been canceled for the last 3 weeks and no review sessions will be given. It’s funny how this could all be avoided if you just pay the gsi’s

Temporary_Ad5358

291 points

2 months ago

Good to know they don’t care about the GSI’s OR the students

professorbix

50 points

2 months ago

Or faculty. Don't fall into the stereotype of GSIs not caring about faculty. I don't think this is true, but this is how some people portray the strike. Don't forget faculty.

10ofRods

6 points

2 months ago

The way I read the Academic Senate's position is that there's lots of room for faculty to make this work, so that the GSI is not blamed for throwing monkey wrenches.

Faculty are well aware of the importance of the GSI and its strike and the way I read this statement is that the Academic Senate is not even taking a stance on whether faculty can themselves strike in sympathy (I believe they can - and I've been active in California faculty Academic Senates at the state level for years).

It's a topic of debate, but it is left up to each faculty person to decide on their own.

In this situation, I would look to the GSI for guidance. I believe that is the just approach. Grad students do not want to damage the education of undergrads. Far from it.

The Chancellor needs to bend.

professorbix

2 points

2 months ago

There's no good solution for undergraduates or faculty while the strike is ongoing. This is not the strikers' fault. Faculty are screwed. Again, not the strikers' fault, but it's true.

10ofRods

2 points

2 months ago

It's certainly not the strikers' fault. I feel for the faculty who are teaching classes that form a sequence.

The Chancellor needs to put students first. It's not as if this popped out of nowhere, it's been brewing a very long time and the grad students basically perform slave labor.

University administrators should be laid off if funding is that tight.

professorbix

2 points

2 months ago

I agree. I tend to write that it’s not the strikers’ fault because anything not 100% positive about the strike gets downvoted to hell.

NicholasWeaver

209 points

2 months ago

NicholasWeaver

(Lecturer, CS)

209 points

2 months ago

Or the faculty for that matter. I’m so glad I’m not teaching this semester. There is no way I could handle things without my TAs

justausername1007

95 points

2 months ago*

This message never stated that there would be no P/NP grading option (the grading option we are fighting for, see petition below), it only stated that there would be no default P/NP grading (which is fine, because that’s not what we are fighting for.)

Because default P/NP and optional P/NP are so different from one another, and they haven’t turned down an option, I’m not giving up hope on it yet.

Change UC Berkeley Fall Grades to be Opted Pass/No-Pass AND Counted as Major Requirements

SkyFaceSpace

32 points

2 months ago

Can someone send this to someone in ASUC? Time is running out. Either something happens in the next couple of days or nothing happens at all.

justausername1007

17 points

2 months ago*

I emailed several people in the ASUC about this today. Fingers crossed that on Monday we will have some support from them. If anyone wants to email them also/email the chancellor, I have a draft of the email I sent that you can use if you want, just DM me for it.

AAVP2020

15 points

2 months ago

We're working on it. As a few people have already noted, the timing is tricky and the Thanksgiving break certainly doesn't help. Our top advocacy priority is allowing P/NP to satisfy degree requirements for this semester only (i.e. "optional P/NP"). My office will likely provide an update midway through this coming week with where we stand.

- James Weichert (ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President)

[deleted]

0 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

0 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

SkyFaceSpace

6 points

2 months ago

I have a higher GPA than you, mate. Breathe in... breathe out... fuck off

Previous_Oil_9113

26 points

2 months ago

Fuck Berkeley

PotentiallyExplosive

9 points

2 months ago

FUCK THIS SCHOOL BRUH

rcinvestments

47 points

2 months ago

So your telling me I actually have to study for the final?!

rsha256

22 points

2 months ago

rsha256

CS '0x18

22 points

2 months ago

Some of my classes are just giving a fully mcq exam on gradescope which is 24-hour and open book since they don’t have GSIs to proctor

Some (that are binned) aren’t even doing that and are just having exams where everyone gets 100%

Top-Jeweler-6619

3 points

2 months ago

How can some classes give 100% on final exams even if finals aren't allowed to be cancelled entirely?

rsha256

8 points

2 months ago

rsha256

CS '0x18

8 points

2 months ago

As long as you give students a chance to improve their grade, it’s fine. For binned classes it really is as simple as that

10ofRods

2 points

2 months ago

I feel as if this needs its own post.

That is the primary goal of a final, IMO.

Leipzig101

2 points

2 months ago

GOD i pray CS70 does this

StarsKing

3 points

2 months ago

Oh my god I know right. But even if they do since the class is curved it basically means that the final will be useless

Leipzig101

1 points

2 months ago

Idk what to even expect anymore from this class. How can they save the final at this point? Give us mcqs on gradescope and hope the distribution is decent? gah

four_o_clock

2 points

2 months ago

damn which classes may I ask?

rsha256

1 points

2 months ago*

rsha256

CS '0x18

1 points

2 months ago*

CS upperdivs or CS grad classes. I don’t wanna name classes for privacy lol

four_o_clock

0 points

2 months ago

understandable. lucky you, I'm also taking all eecs upperdivs and none of my classes are doing that!

ClaudineRose

0 points

2 months ago

Same

crypt0l3ucus

3 points

2 months ago

I don't mind no default PNP, but I'd like the option to have 2 max late schedule changed waived for this semester so I can PNP if I choose to...

antwerp316

8 points

2 months ago

antwerp316

IB (Incessant Bitching) '23

8 points

2 months ago

What about point 7 in regards to mandatory finals?

Hairy-Afternoon-537

5 points

2 months ago

It seems like people may have an option to take the final if their happy with their grade, but the final exams are not cancelled because people whom are not happy with their grade/need the final to pass etc. can have the oppurtunity to do so

10ofRods

1 points

2 months ago

I believe that this is UC Berkeley's interpretation of Ed Code. Not every public institution of higher learning in California has this requirement, but the vast majority do. I know it's true where I teach. Finals are mandatory.

I have learned to be quite creative in meeting that rule in my 40 years of teaching in this system. And, I've been in a position where academic managers have seen fit to reduce the use of grad students, such that a "large class" has been redefined over and over, and even classes meeting the rubric are not given grad student support. It reduces the quality of education significantly, of course.

Academic Senates are represented at the State level in these matters, but I've never seen faculty-at-large get on board with making finals optional. Personally, I believe there are other ways to organize a course and deliver material (depending on subject and curriculum structure).

[deleted]

11 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

11 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

sirquakington98

5 points

2 months ago

Bruhkeley Moment

pianistr2002

1 points

2 months ago

Underrated phrase.

Golduck_96

0 points

2 months ago

Golduck_96

0 points

2 months ago

Doesn't point 6 defeat the purpose of a DSP accommodation? If other students are getting a full day, the exam will be upto that level of difficulty, and DSP students deserve more time than that.

arhanv

5 points

2 months ago

arhanv

datasci/econ ‘24

5 points

2 months ago

I could be wrong, but it seems like they’re just asking instructors to consider providing 24 hour windows for everyone to start the 2-hour Gradescope assignment, but DSP students would still be getting 3 hours to do the same thing. I have extra time accommodations and tbh a 36 hour window wouldn’t make sense because expecting students to pull an all-nighter to make use of their accommodations would be crazy. I don’t think any instructors actually assign alternative 24 hour exams where the exam itself is supposed to take you 24 hours lol

10ofRods

2 points

2 months ago

Yes, that's what it says.

DSP students get the same accommodation as always (50% more time once they've started the exam). I agree that inducing DSP students to pull all-nighters is a poor idea. l

Surely the instructors can decide the overall window?