Undergraduate Student Government’s 52nd General Assembly convened virtually for the final time this semester Wednesday and passed resolutions in response to the organization’s desire to increase diversity and inclusion and help students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
USG passed resolutions to add a Black Caucus to the organization to show support for a pass/no pass grading scale option for all students and ensure that aid for summer education abroad students will be available for future semesters.
Pass/No Pass Option
USG unanimously passed a resolution recommending that the university encourage each individual college to give students the option to keep their grades or have their courses marked as a pass or no pass with no implications toward their GPA.
The resolution comes after concern was raised through a petition online signed by 3,871 students about potential issues with online learning resulting in grades that don’t fairly reflect their comprehension of the material.
“This resolution, instead of asking for a blanket policy, is asking for the administration and the University Senate to encourage the individual colleges to pass their own policies enabling students to take all classes pass/fail within each college,” Sen. Josh Goetz said.
Sen. Andy Klemm raised concern with the original wording of the resolution, which said students should have the ability to decide at any time whether to have their courses graded on a pass/no pass scale. Instead, he recommended that this be changed to the April 17 deadline proposed by the University Senate.
“From an education perspective, it’s not, in my opinion, right to have students be able to choose after the fact whether or not they want this to be pass or fail because then students will just be making that decision based on their final grade whether or not they like it,” Klemm said.
A vote in the University Senate will take place Thursday regarding whether a pass/no pass option should be granted for electives and general education courses. Some colleges, such as the College of Arts and Sciences and the Fisher College of Business have already moved to grant the pass/no pass option for major and minor courses if the proposal passes in the University Senate.
In a next step toward adding more representation for black students within USG, Sens. Amanya Paige, primary sponsor, and secondary sponsors Ose Arheghan and Maddie Carson brought a resolution seeking the addition of a Black Caucus. The resolution passed 28 to 1 with no abstentions.
“We have provided this framework to create a Black Caucus that would operate within the Undergraduate Student Government to provide that sounding board for black students and provide that avenue to student leadership within student government to black students in a way that is currently not available to those students on campus,” Arheghan said.
The resolution comes after the five hour protest which resulted in the organization formally recognizing Black History Month in early February and USG’s idea to create a Black Caucus was presented in an action plan soon after.
The general role of the body will be to make certain that black students are more connected to the university and their concerns are heard.
Arheghan said there will be a more specific plan as more people are appointed to different positions within the caucus.
“A lot of what students will be doing, that will be determined more concretely once we’ve had the opportunity to appoint vice chairs for all of the sub-committees because what those sub-committees will be doing, the vice chairs will have great autonomy over that,” Arheghan said.
The Black Caucus will strictly comprise black students; however, USG welcomes students of other races to join in on whatever is happening within the caucus, Arheghan said.
Sen. Alek Kundla — the lone opposition during the vote — said he could not get behind a group that only allows one race to become a member.
“I have a big concern about creating an organization under the Undergraduate Student Government whose organization is solely comprised of one race,” Kundla said. “As Sen. Wong mentioned, people are going to ask: If we create a Black Caucus made entirely of only black students, what’s to stop us creating a White Caucus made of only white students? And I think we would all acknowledge that a white caucus made of only white students is a very bad idea that we should definitely not do.”
Arheghan has been elected as the first chair of the Black Caucus, Paige said.
Study Abroad Aid
Another resolution passed unanimously Wednesday, calling the university to retroactively give back financial aid that has been rescinded and provide students with options to use aid earned for the summer study abroad program during future semesters.
This resolution is in response to the university retracting some students’ scholarships after they had been earned for the upcoming summer abroad program, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Emily Needham said.
“This resolution in particular is just addressing the fact that individual departments have rescinded some scholarship money that was awarded to students for study abroad,” Needham said.
Needham said there are some departments and programs that have decided against rescinding the aid and instead put that money aside to be used by students in future semesters.
“There have been departments and programs such as the Office of International Affairs or the Huntington International Fellowship that have not rescinded money — actually including our Academic Enrichment Grant hopefully — but are rather putting the money aside for students to use within the next three or so semesters for another study abroad opportunity just because these students did spend hours to apply for this money and rightfully earned it,” Needham said.