UC San Diego students have begun an email drive to demand that the university adjust its grading policy for finals in light of recent acts of police brutality and subsequent nationwide protests. The initiative has predominantly been advertised on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, with the emails to the UCSD Emergency Operations Center and the A.S. Office of Academic Affairs calling for the university to modify its grading policy.
“Please do not force students that are paralyzed by the current events to disengage in their political environment,” the sample letter states. “Please do not prioritize students’ exams over their mental and emotional health. Please do not force students to choose their testing and grades over their obligations to protect and care about human rights … The Compton Cookout remains a dark stain of injustice and racism from the UCSD community; do not let this become another one. We must do better.”
Alex de Leon, an Earl Warren College fifth year, spoke to The UCSD Guardian about the need for such a change to the finals grading system.
“In light of the current climate and systematic acts of violence towards the Black community, it would be entirely cruel and dehumanizing for us to expect our Black classmates at UCSD to have to carry on like everything’s good and normal,” de Leon said. “During these tragic and uncertain times, grades and finals should not have to be their top priority.
De Leon went on to encourage students to participate in the email drive..
“Please fellow non-Black Tritons, show some compassion and show up for your Black friends when it counts — when it’s inconvenient for you,” de Leon said. “I am 100 percent for this movement and I am proud of members of the undergraduate student body fo removing past performative activism in favor of tangible action”
The university has already permitted departments to allow students to take courses within their major Pass/No Pass during Spring 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is not a universal policy and is subject to the approval of individual departments.
Hannah Legaspi, a Thurgood Marshall College second year, spoke to The UCSD Guardian about what motivated her to participate in the email drive.
“I personally have been exhausting so much energy simply using my platform, researching, donating, having hard conversations, empathizing, and grieving to even focus on my classes and have to catch up as we speak because the past week has been excruciating,” Legaspi said. “That is why I participated in the email thread, because if I, as a non-Black person of color, am already deeply affected, I cannot even imagine what Black students are going through right now and this is [a] way for me to support them, and myself, and stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”
Neither the university nor A.S. have made official statements on the recent email drive. However, several students who sent emails have received individual responses from A.S. Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Adarsh Parthasarathy, that includes offers to set up a Zoom session for students to express their opinions on the matter.
Parthasarathy spoke with The UCSD Guardian about how initially there was some confusion with the amount of emails he had received, but became supportive after learning about the movement’s goals.
“I am amazed by the unity with which the student body responded to the terrible events that have occurred over the past week and I want to say that I am forcefully in support of the goal that my fellow students are after,” Parthasarathy said. “As of right now, I have been coordinating a set of asks for campus administration and the Department Chairs and have reached out to the Dean of Undergraduate Education for an emergency meeting.”
Parthasarathy stated that he will continue to update students on his progress with reaching out to administration via Reddit and Twitter.
A.S. VP of External Affairs Alisha Saxena told The UCSD Guardian that Associated Students is planning a meeting with the students who have participated in the email drive “to ensure that the demands we send to administration meet their requests.”
On Sunday, May 31, the A.S. Office of External Affairs released a resource titled: “Black Lives ALWAYS Matter: A Legislative Action Guide Focused on Racial Justice,” which includes information on how to get involved with and educated on the broader black lives matter movement.
The university did release a statement on the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery on Friday, May 29. The statement denounced the racist incidents and explained that the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is developing a series of community conversations to “provide spaces for healing and identifying ways to be agents of change in this moment.”
“We know that statements such as these do not resolve the intractable issues we face as a country,” the university’s statement reads. “We know it does not even begin to heal the hurt and trauma caused by structural and systemic racism and discrimination. Collectively, let us continue to work together for a more just, equitable and humane society in our service, activism, pedagogy, and community and collaborative efforts.”
Some students have argued that the university’s statement is not enough. David Nuñez, a third year John Muir College student, explained to The UCSD Guardian that more needs to be done to fully address the gravity of police brutality and the protests.
“While I appreciate UCSD as an institution standing in solidarity with Black communities at the moment, it’s important to remember that the UC System itself is also guilty of perpetuating police brutality,” Nuñez said. “Back in February, grad students protesting for COLA clashed with police employed by the [UC], resulting in some students being injured.”
Nuñez continued by saying that the best way to comprehensively address the situation is to uplift black students’ voices.
“I think the university should amplify the voices of Black communities who have been affected by police brutality in order to show solidarity with their students during this time period,” Nuñez said. “Additionally, I think the university should also highlight how racism has played a role in police brutality and its impact throughout the decades against Black and minorities of color.”
The Executive Offices of Associated Students released a statement in regards to the recent acts of police brutality on Thursday, May 28 in which they announced their intention to create a minority caucus within the Office of External Affairs. However, the letter has received some backlash for its phrasing, with several students claiming that it was “sugar-coating” the recent acts of police brutality.
The UCSD Guardian reached out to the university and the Black Resource Center for comment on this story. This is a breaking story and The UCSD Guardian will continue to monitor it as it develops.
Graphic by Jacob Sutherland for The UCSD Guardian.
This article was updated on at 2:00 p.m. on May 31 to include a resource put out by the A.S. Office of External Affairs.