Covid-19, grading policy discussed at Faculty Council meeting

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Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia

DePaul University Lincoln Park campus.

In the second meeting of the academic year, DePaul’s Faculty Council discussed a series of matters including the university’s Covid-19 case status, more resolutions on the grading policy, student voting opportunities, and Interim Provost Salma Ghanem’s response to pressing questions. 

Health Science professor Craig Klugman, who has been overseeing DePaul’s reopening, gave a presentation on DePaul’s current status with Covid-19, what it would look like for winter and how the university has been handling the pandemic compared to other universities. 

“[The virus] is not going anywhere.” Klugman said. 

He mentioned that Chicago currently has 21 states under its travel ban and more are expected to come. Klugman then presented the city’s case rate by presenting statistics from Chicago’s Department of Public Health. The total number of cases in Chicago sits at 82,212 with 2,979 deaths with a current positivity rate of 4.3 percent, down from 4.8. The most prominent age group of contracting Covid-19 is between 20 and 29 years old. 

As stated with an announcement earlier this week, Klugman said that winter quarter will be operating the same with a few more classes held on campus, but more cases are going to arise. However, Klugman also said that around 10 percent of the population on campus has already been exposed to the virus. As of Wednesday, there are 11 confirmed positive cases that were reported on DePaul’s campus, which is lower than neighboring Chicago schools and Big East Universities, who are predominantly operating in person. 

Another motion, sponsored by Kristina Fluty, who originally issued the Pass/D/Fail motion for this quarter, also put forward another motion saying that students should be able to discuss with their professors if they feel they didn’t get the grade they deserved within the exceptions imposed from spring quarter. 

As the end of spring quarter posed the start of escalating racial tensions, DePaul said that students were eligible for receiving full credit by completing 70 percent of their coursework. If student’s felt professors didn’t follow these guidelines with their grade, they had a chance to challenge their grades. 

Faculty Council President Scott Paeth made a friendly amendment to the motion, saying it should be discussed within a certain time frame. The council came to the decision of it being set in place for the end of the 2021 academic year, and the motion was passed with one abstention. 

Following this, there was discussion on the Student Voting Initiative, led by Marie Donovan and Nina Diamond. It was put in place because over the past three general elections, there has been low student turnout because they weren’t registered to vote. Now with a group of students, faculty and staff, this can change. 

“Students tend not to do anything unless they get the step by step assistance,” Diamond said. 

Diamond said that the highest student turnout in general elections is 40 percent and is less during midterms. However, if students are shown the process of registering to vote, they are most likely to do so. When registered, there is a 70 percent student turnout. However, now with the Covid-19 pandemic, there is now more of a burden as students carry more responsibilities and stressors on their shoulders. 

With the student voting initiative, students can email depaulvotes@depaul.edu to receive a form andspeak with students that are voting experts who cover different states. They will walk them through the process of registering to vote and answer other questions around this topic. 

“It is a solution to the lack of real-time communication,” said Suzanne Fogel, a professor in DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business. 

At the end of the Faculty Council meeting, Ghanem answered pressing questions. Many asked about DePaul’s surplus in enrollment this quarter and how this came to be. 

“We’re definitely looking into those reasons,” Ghanem said.

Some of the factors included new scholarships for incoming freshmen, increased marketing of DePaul in the Chicago area, a later announcement ongoing remote and more student engagement. However, these reasons are still under speculation. 

Even though DePaul is seeing more enrollment, students are still struggling with their online course load. According to a communications survey that her and Caryn Shaden put out, 50 percent of students reported that they were doing “bad” with their workload in the spring quarter. 

While this has dropped to 30 percent this fall quarter, students are still enduring the same struggles. As for the winter quarter, professors are still looking into the best modalities, though Ghanem said that they should ask their students in their classes on what works best since it differs for each department. 

In the next Faculty Council meeting, Jeff Bethke, the executive vice president, and chief financial officer of DePaul will be discussing the universities’ finances. The board of trustees will also be at the November meeting.