Last week, Craccum reported that the University of Auckland rejected several of AUSA’s requests for student support during this lockdown period, including a universal grade bump for this semester. Craccum investigates how students feel about UoA’s student support response, and how their study has been affected by COVID-19.
Despite a student-led petition with nearly 5000 signatories, the University of Auckland will controversially not be applying a universal grade bump for Semester Two. In an email to AUSA president Anamika Harirajh, the University stated that while last year’s grade bump was well received by students, it resulted in “some students progressing into their next level of study without having gained sufficient knowledge and skills.”
In their email, UoA defended their decision to reject AUSA’s grade bump request, stating that all universities decided against it. However, some student leaders argue UoA is not considering the significant disruption faced by Auckland students, who have been in lockdown conditions for longer than the rest of the country.
Additionally, the University declined AUSA’s request to re-introduce a fees-free aegrotat or compassionate consideration process, arguing that waiving fees would lead to the service being overwhelmed and outcomes delayed. UoA also said they will not offer students fees free retake of failed courses, claiming this previously “caused confusion and complaints from domestic students because of the Government’s Fees Free regime for first-year students already in place.” (Writer’s hot take no one asked for: why tf would anyone complain about this?)
UoA’s approach to student support has been compared by some to other universities in areas that have already moved out of lockdown. The University of Otago gave their students a 5% mark increase on assignments during Level Four, an approach that has not been taken by UoA. Some faculties at other universities including the College of Creative Arts at Massey University’s Wellington Campus have also made non-final year courses pass/fail due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Craccum talked to students following UoA’s response about whether they support a universal grade bump, and what should be done to better support students during this pandemic.
Liam, Engineering and Commerce
“I get that a grade bump across the board for Semester Two can disadvantage people in some competitive degrees especially when a course is offered in both semesters. I’m aware of a lot of engineering students who were disadvantaged by the grade bump last year and I feel the response (if there is one) needs to be course by course and case by case, or faculty dependent as there is a lot of variance within the University. However, they should at least look at implementing course-specific compassion, shifted weightings, removing coursework, taking the better of a few grading options for students, etc. to take a bit of the load off.”
Ayush, Health Science, Law
“A $30 fee for some is nothing but for many within our student community that could mean the difference between making rent or having sufficient food for the week. The University is gatekeeping one of the few processes they have that is supposed to help students who are genuinely struggling. The service becoming “overwhelmed” is simply not a sufficient justification to inhibit many students from receiving a bit of support during what has been an extremely tough time for us. If anything, it only illustrates how many students do actually need help. Whilst the student emergency fund is available, this is a process that requires you to prove how much you’re struggling to a hardship panel. For many, this is a demeaning process that only adds to the insurmountable stress students are facing. Consequently, many don’t even bother with this process.”
*Anonymous Wombat, Science
“I know this isn’t the fault of AUSA, but why do we even have a student association if the University disregards everything we ask for? We can’t even protest because of lockdown. This University calls itself the best in New Zealand, but it’s probably the worst one to actually be a student at.”
Peter, Computer Science and Information Systems
“Lockdown has disrupted my study significantly. I don’t have the most suitable study space and home isn’t like the library where you can feed off the energy of others studying around you. If you are someone who doesn’t have a device at home or has poor internet connection, the experience is twice as bad. The uni provides laptops, but I’m guessing they’re not that great. Zoom isn’t the same as meeting in real life, you’re more likely to get distracted by addictions you may have (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, porn, gaming, youtube). But I am happy that UoA is continuing to support having failed courses excluded from GPA calculations and are extending the deadline for course deletion by one week.”
Emily, Computer Science and Finance
“A grade bump would offer me a higher grade so I won’t complain if we get it, but I think it affects students who genuinely work hard. I’m not one of those hard workers this year, so it doesn’t affect me besides having an excuse to slack off more. If there is a universal grade bump, their hard work would not be respected as much because employers will know everyone’s grade got bumped. It also discourages many students, like myself, from trying as hard because they know their grades will be bumped up. Overall, I do not think it’s necessary. It is a “want” and not a “need” for students. In the real world, we aren’t going to get these benefits whenever we complain. But whatever happens, I don’t care. I will just never advocate for a grade bump because it’s not something I strongly support (I’m neutral).