Students at Oberlin College are circulating a petition asking the school to prohibit professors from failing students in their fall classes, arguing that students are too distracted and exhausted by protests related to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner to study effectively.
The petition drive, reported on by Campus Reform, has gathered over 1,300 signatures as of Tuesday.
“A ‘C’ should be the lowest grade students can receive this semester,” the students argue. “Professors should be required to work with students, who would otherwise be at risk of failing, to create alternate means of accessing knowledge.”
If a general mercy can’t be won, students at least want minority students to receive a special exemption.
“Basically, no student especially black students and students of color should be failing a class this semester.”
Oberlin’s final exams start on Wednesday, but so far the administration has rejected their pleas. President Marvin Krislov has sent an email to students saying that “suspending grading protocols is not the way to achieve our shared goal of ensuring that students have every opportunity and resource to succeed.”
A suspension of traditional grading wouldn’t be unprecedented for Oberlin, which has a lengthy history of left-wing activism. In 1970, the school adjusted its grading policy and canceled classes in response to the Kent State shooting of Vietnam War protesters.
The demands are similar to those made at several other schools, including Harvard. At Columbia Law School, students have been allowed to postpone their final exams in order to cope with the alleged trauma caused by recent events.
In addition to their efforts to sway the school administration, Oberlin students have tried lobbying individual professors as well. In one such exchange, student Della Kurzer-Zlotnick begged her professor to postpone a class final for “students who do not feel like they are in a place, emotionally, mentally, or physically” to take it.
Just a minute later, the email earned a terse response from professor Michael Raney: “No.”
Kurzer-Zlotnick posted the exchange to her public Facebook page, in an apparent effort to shame the professor. She also posted it with a “trigger warning” for the “violent language” of Raney’s single-word response.
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