College students want to eliminate grades below 'C' and written exams

- A recent piece in The New Yorker examines the effects of a new wave of student activism at Oberlin College, a small, private liberal arts institution in Ohio, and it's pretty eye-opening. According to writer Nathan Heller, Oberlin is "at the center of the current storm" of activism on college campuses, with students heavily involved in issues including classroom diversity, safe spaces, racial inequality and social injustice. Due to the intense focus on those issues, many progressive students are dropping out. They claim that their activism is getting in the way of their studies, and other students, the faculty and the administration have made it impossible to live on campus.

Heller spoke to self-identified “Afro-Latinx” student Megan Bautista, who said that she was upset that the school refused her demand to erase any grades below Cs.

Protest surged again in the fall of 2014, after the killing of Tamir Rice. “A lot of us worked alongside community members in Cleveland who were protesting. But we needed to organize on campus as well—it wasn’t sustainable to keep driving forty minutes away. A lot of us started suffering academically.” In 1970, Oberlin had modified its grading standards to accommodate activism around the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings, and Bautista had hoped for something similar. More than thirteen hundred students signed a petition calling for the college to eliminate any grade lower than a C for the semester, but to no avail. “Students felt really unsupported in their endeavors to engage with the world outside Oberlin,” she told me.

A student from Chicago named Zakiya Acey complained to Heller that some of his professors would actually make her take in-class exams as opposed to simply discussing the subject matter.

"Because I’m dealing with having been arrested on campus, or having to deal with the things that my family are going through because of larger systems—having to deal with all of that, I can’t produce the work that they want me to do. But I understand the material, and I can give it to you in different ways. There’s professors who have openly been, like, ‘Yeah, instead of, you know, writing out this midterm, come in to my office hours, and you can just speak it,’ right? But that’s not institutionalized. I have to find that professor."

 

 

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