SGA Makes A Last Ditch Effort to Bring Pass/Fail Option

University of Baltimore’s Student Government Association has made a last ditch effort to reverse the university back to an alternative grading model. 

Although administration, faculty, and students have deliberated on the issue since earlier this year, little progress has been made as the university has gone without the option since the summer semester.

In early November, the Student Government Association unanimously passed a resolution titled “Resolution 11, Resolution Providing Students with Academic Relief” asking for an extension of the option. At the November 25 SGA meeting, Treasurer Camilla Canner said, “The idea was that during this COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of extenuating circumstances that would perhaps make it difficult for a student to finish a class with a grade that would allow them to pass. The Pass/Fail grade gives an option to continue working on their degree.” This was a sentiment shared by all of the SGA, as they felt this was the best way to advocate for students.

Nevertheless, this resolution seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Many faculty members believe that this option not only hampers the ability to track student progress and accurately report information for financial aid requirements but is a blow to the reputation of the institution. 

“Data shows that a pass/fail option is unnecessary,” says interim provost Catherine Anderson. An internal report from the registrar shows similar distributions between spring 2019 and spring 2020 grades with the latter actually being higher and showing fewer withdrawals from courses. 

“Only 5 percent of undergraduate and graduate students used the no credit/credit option and distribution shows that most of those grades were Cs and Ds,” said Anderson. “About the same percent of grades were Fs in the no credit column. In other words, the alternative grading did not greatly boost academic performance.”

She adds, “Ultimately, doing what faculty felt was in the best interests of students, we did not support a Pass/Fail option for students this semester nor did any other USM schools for this fall.” 

Students like senior Zachary Romer believe that a pass/fail option is essential to his ability to graduate without having to incur the cost of a three credit semester in the spring.  To assuage his worst fears, he took 18 credits but did not anticipate the myriad of pandemic-related consequences for this decision.

“When [professors] are not giving full attention to students or even making an effort to try to help students meet their learning objectives,” said Romer. “Ultimately, there is a disengagement from students because they see the disengagement from their professors.” 

“Professors,” he says, “have not abided by their office hours,” citing personal challenges without extending the same leniency to students while also occasionally dropping “ridiculous” grading curves to push them through. 

For the past few months, SGA members have been in negotiations with members of the Faculty Senate and administration in hopes of garnering support for the legislation. Beginning in the summer, attempts to pressure the Faculty Senate to make a recommendation fell flat. Michael Kiel, Faculty Senate president, explained that the Board of Regents’ report addressing UB’s finances released earlier this year has occupied the minds of faculty members.

“I could have probably brought it up sooner and maybe I should have,” said Kiel. “Not a single faculty senator was in favor of discussing it. It gave even more reason to avoid it among other more dominating topics.” 

On December 3rd, SGA president Daniel Khoshkepazi and SGA vice president Kevin McHugh were invited to a Faculty Senate meeting in hopes of being able to speak. Kiel, however, argues that they were under the wrong impression and rather wanted them to simply have a presence in the room. 

The Faculty Senate had passed a resolution encouraging members to “be imaginative, compassionate, and kind in response to student crises,” in hopes that this would ease student minds. 

With time running out and the pass/fail option seeming less likely, some SGA members are seeking better ways to help students. On Wednesday, “Resolution 23, Asking the University of Baltimore to extend the academic probation period due to the COVID-19 pandemic as an academic relief accommodation,” passed unanimously, signaling SGA’s willingness to continue to compromise in the near future while alleviating some of the fears of risk and reputation damage that come with alternative grading. 

The Fall 2020 semester ends on December 18.

Graham Antreasian is a staff writer for The Sting. 

Letter From the Editor: Thanksgiving, turkey, and memories

“I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full.
It’s over when I hate myself.” -Louis C.K.

It’s finally November. This means two things. First of all, the weather has become more tolerable. I don’t have to spend my day hiding in air conditioned basements anymore! Secondly: Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving: that one magical day when nobody is gonna judge me for going a little overboard with the eating, drinking and merriment. The day when I can spend all day in the kitchen getting slowly drunk as the smells of meat and gravy fill up the room. The day that, for whatever reason, my roommates and I have dedicated to watching Kate Bush music videos on repeat until we have the choreography memorized.

My girlfriend takes thanksgiving very seriously, as does her family. For them it isn’t a once a year celebration, it’s a meal prepared for any occasion they deem special enough to validate roasting an entire turkey. Before I met her, I have to admit, I wasn’t too fond of turkey. In my prior dealings it was too dry, too flavorless. I like meats that belong in the juicy, fat-dripping family of meats: beef, pork, duck, meats that leave enough drippings to fry a potato in.

But after last thanksgiving I’m a changed man. A turkey should be juicy. A turkey should have delicious crispy skin. A turkey should be soaked in a brine for at least a day
before roasting it in an oven. A turkey should have a whole can of beer poured over it while it’s cooking. A turkey should be served, poundfor- pound, with an equal amount of gravy. There is an order to this universe, a formula for the way we should live our lives, and turkey – really well prepared turkey as I have just described it – is necessary for life to be worth anything.

This is the last issue of the semester, so I’d like to leave you with this simple message: don’t settle for subpar turkey. Life’s too short. As always, if you need to reach me, reach out and touch me at: editorinchief.ubpost@gmail.com

Signing off,
Kyle Fierstien
Editor-in-Chief

Is it their fault?

Students are often blamed for their disinterest in academic pursuits

By Zachary Nelson

The professor must first convince the student that the subject at hand is useful in real life. Only then will the student agree to care about anything the professor says.

It is a complaint of teachers and parents alike that students are not engaged in coursework. Professors and parents decry this apparent disinterest as laziness or another flaw of character (Kohn). They claim that video games and socializing, is all they ever do. To confirm this, I conducted a survey of UB students this past month (n=21). Student engagement in various activities was measured on a 1-7 scale (7 meaning high engagement). Electronic entertainment scored a 4.46 while spending time with friends scored a 5.95. Meanwhile, academic pursuits (class lectures and homework assignments) scored only a 4.1. (See Figure 1)

Figure 1 shows how engaged students are in the corresponding activities. A score of 7 indicates “very engaged.”
Figure 1 shows how engaged students are in the corresponding activities. A score of 7 indicates “very engaged.”

To understand the reasons behind this undesirable deficit, we will consider the average day of a gamer who attends UB. First, this student listens for an hour and a half to a lecturer talk about a subject which does not seem to have an application the real world. Then, during their study time, the student attempts to memorize this seemingly meaningless information and so he can fill in the correct little bubbles with a led pencil at the end of the month.

The student then goes home and unwinds by playing a videogame where he is participating in a breathtaking rescue scene. As the student is playing, he reacts emotionally as if he was actually doing the act himself – which would certainly be an exhilarating and engaging experience (McGonigal).

Wouldn’t it be more natural for our brain to engage in the video game instead of the class lecture? Wouldn’t it be natural for our brain to tune out a lecture that is perceived as irrelevant to normal functioning? Wouldn’t it be natural for the student to pursue the next most productive alternative? (i.e. texting or watching sports highlights in class).

Perhaps students are harshly critiqued by parents and teachers unnecessarily. Talking down to someone for following a natural mental process may be quite misinformed and potentially hazardous to the portion of the student’s brain that dares to think beyond the PowerPoints and scantrons.

Please understand, I am not suggesting that the content UB lectures are irrelevant or meaningless. Nothing could be further from the truth. Much rigorous work has been put into building the theories that are taught in the textbooks. I am, however, suggesting that if the contents of the lecture are perceived by the students as being disconnected from reality, students will perceive the lecture as a waste of time.

Fixing the problem does not require an overhaul of the wealth of knowledge we have accumulated over years of rigorous academic research. The solution, instead, lies in the presentation of the information. This is where further research should be done.

Image Source: Zachary Nelson
Text Citations:
Kohn, Alfie. “From Degrading to De-Grading.” High School Magazine Mar. 1999: Print.
McGonigal, Jane. “Gaming Can Make a Better World.” YouTube. TED, Web. Dec. 2016.

The New Technology Revitalizing Safety

roboranger
The Sound Grenade in blue

Forget the unease of walking to your car after a late night of classes or festivities. RoboCopp is a tech start up from Sam Mansen and Jill turner, who share a vision of preventing crime before it happens.

“In the future technology will be so advanced that the probability of you getting caught in a crime is a 100 percent,” says Turner. “That’s how advanced technology is. Our vision is kind of this utopian future where crime is non-existent, and that is kind of where the name comes from.”

According to Mansen the name has no relation to popular film of the same title, RoboCop. RoboCopp seeks to combine “a robot and police officer,” says Mansen. “Our futuristic technology can contribute so much to crime prevention that eventually you’re going to have a crime rate of zero percent. We really think that will be the case. Sensors will be so advanced, cameras will be so advanced, guns will be so advanced that your chances of getting caught anytime you commit a crime are 100 percent. In other words, getting away with a crime — a violent crime that is — is zero percent.” Mansen predicts this future happening within twenty years. When asked how this might be possible, Mansen explains the two factors of committing a crime: something to gain and “getting away with it”. RoboCopp’s focus on eliminating the chancing of getting away with a crime is what they believe to be the best way of eradicating it altogether. Mansen calls attention to Singapore with the deterrence method via increased surveillance.

“When you look at police officers who carry body cams, complaints have gone down by over 80 percent. That is no surprise. No surprise whatsoever. Technology is nudging us into behaving morally.”

“I think [technology] is getting cheaper and cheaper every day. It’s getting more affordable for most countries to have these basic technological crime prevention measures. I think most countries will be able to afford basic surveillance. Every year it gets cheaper for us to make body cams and personal alarms. Economically speaking it will be very affordable.”

The personal alarm from RoboCopp is a discreet device. If you saw it, you might mistake it for a USB drive with a square face. However, the top of the “USB” is a pin that you would pull to release a 120 db alarm, “which can be heard up to 300 feet away,” says Turner. Although the device is open to the public, many students have taken to the device, carrying the Sound Grenade on their keychains. Once the pin is removed, the alarm will sound for 30 minutes until it eventually dies out. The device is reusable within the 30 minutes, meaning after the pin is removed, you can reinsert the pin and save it for later use. Once the battery is depleted, the device would need to be replaced. According to Mansen, if used in an emergency, RoboCopp will replace the device, and if you never use the Sound Grenade the device should last up to five years.

“Recently a UC Berkley student was walking to her car from a train station and two men approached asking for her money and claiming they had a gun. And she just had the device on her keys and pulled it. They just take off running immediately. We’ve had a lot of these kinds of stories where students are directly confronted with someone or they’re being followed and they feel nervous. They pull the alarm and they see people running away.”

The device runs for $15.99, which is a part of the company goal to provide affordable personal safety for students. RoboCopp is currently working on their next device, the Robo Ranger which is an upgraded Sound Grenade that alerts the police from wherever you are.

“When you make someone aware that they’ll get caught in what they are doing, that’s the best deterrence,” says Turner.

The sound grenade is available for purchase via the RoboCopp website or Amazon.

University of Baltimore (UB) Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey Results

By Elizabeth Paige

The University of Baltimore is committed to maintaining a university setting and educational environment that is healthy and nondiscriminatory for students, including an environment free of sexual misconduct of all types. In February 2016, UB’s Title IX Advisory Committee contracted with the UB Schaefer Center for Public Policy to administer a sexual assault campus climate survey to students to seek student input about the University’s climate and student experience regarding the incidence of sexual discrimination, misconduct and relationship violence. Thank you to the students that took the time to participate in this important research. Your survey responses and opinions matter to help inform the development of University programs and services.
The following information summarizes the results of the survey:
Between February 12 and February 29, 2016, 4,960 UB students were invited to participate in the sexual assault campus climate survey. Of those invited, 680 (16.65%) completed the survey with an additional 106 completing some of the survey questions:

  • The majority of students responding were aware of the UB Police Department and the UB Counseling Center as places to report instances of sexual misconduct.
  • The majority of students responding felt that UB would take reports of sexual misconduct seriously, handle the report fairly, maintain privacy, take steps to protect the safety and support the reporter of sexual misconduct and address factors that led to misconduct.
  • At the time of the survey, the majority of students responding had taken some sort of training about sexual assault or violence.
  • The majority of students responding correctly identified as “responsible employees” the UB Title IX Coordinator, any UB staff member, and regular UB faculty members.

The results of this survey will help the University in its work to keep the campus environment free of sexual discrimination. Such efforts include plans to make an effort to tailor sexual assault-related outreach and awareness activities to meet the needs of students within the individual colleges at UB, when possible and appropriate, noting that students’ needs may differ in certain colleges. UB will institute a cycle of providing students with notice about the Secure Escort and LiveSafe app to increase the number of students who have this app and to increase overall student awareness. UB will also seek additional methods to increase the response rate of campus climate surveys in the future.
To view the full report, please visit ubalt.edu/titleix
Please contact the Office of Government and Public Affairs at 410-837-4533 or ogpa@ubalt.edu with questions.