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. 

Come visit the Global Affairs and Human Security Student Association

Have you ever thought about traveling the world, becoming a diplomat, or helping those that are less fortunate than you? If you have, then you should check out the Global Affairs and Human Security Student Association (GAHSSA). GAHSSA is a student run organization at the University of Baltimore that is “dedicated to exploring international affairs related to global health, socio-political events, economic issues, transnational problem solving, global governance, and issues effecting human security.” In order to fulfill this mission, GAHSSA has implemented a guest speaker series that provides international affairs experts, from around the world, with a venue to express ideas and discuss global topics. So far, GAHSSA’s guest speakers have included former US Ambassador to South Africa, Princeton Lyman, and Middle East media commentator Alireza Jafarzadeh.

A few months ago, GAHSSA’s latest guest speaker, Ambassador Lyman, stood in front of a large group of undergraduate and graduate students and explained his many experiences in South Africa and South Sudan. Before providing details about his time in South Africa, Lyman gave some background on the political situation, explaining that the US civil rights movement was occurring at the same time as the South African apartheid movement, which enabled each movement to feed off each other, in turn, creating a “symbiotic” process to promote change. Lyman also explained that, around this same time, the US congress placed economic sanctions on South Africa, in order to punish the South African government. These sanctions were passed after much disagreement and political drama which involved President Ronald Reagan vetoing the proposed bill, against the will of the US State Department, and congress eventually overriding Reagan’s veto.

Lyman went on to explain that these legislative activities going on in the background contributed to a particular atmosphere in South Africa, a distrustful atmosphere that made Lyman’s job a lot harder. This distrust of the US government, among both the ant-apartheid movement and South Africa’s white government, was a result of the US government’s flip flopping on economic sanctions and other foreign policies. Ambassador Lyman explained that due to the atmosphere in South Africa, Lyman and other members of the State Department not only had to help resolve the overarching conflict in South Africa, they also had to resolve these trust issues. Lyman went on to speak about how a transition process was eventually facilitated in South Africa and how this led to an increase in US credibility in the region.

In regards to Lyman’s involvement in South Sudan, Lyman explained that he was sent to South Sudan to ensure that the Sudanese followed through with a peace agreement they made with people in surrounding regions. During this time, Ambassador Lyman and other diplomats had to deal with changing US positions and had to settle several other issues, including setting boundary lines and establishing a currency.

The guest speaker session closed with comments and questions. Students from across the university asked several interesting questions, one of which was why does the US intervene in some international conflicts but not others? Ambassador Lyman answered this question by explaining that the US usually only involves itself in areas where it has a strategic interest.

If you want to learn more about interesting international topics, such as South Africa and South Sudan, or if you just want to get firsthand knowledge from global experts then be sure to check out GAHSSA.

GAHSSA is even expecting to have another guest speaker come to the University of Baltimore this upcoming semester, so be on the lookout for flyers and emails about GAHSSA’s next guest speaker.

Accounting student look to start NABA chapter on campus

By Andrew Koch

Like many students at the UB, Denyse Webber is a nontraditional student. She’s a member of the UB chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (the honor society for accounting, finance and information systems majors), and is scheduled to graduate with her Master of Science Degree in Accounting and Business Advisory Services in December 2015. Webber is also trying to start a new group on campus geared specifically toward minority students.

Webber is trying to start a UB chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). She explained that the association was started to help African Americans overcome the racial barriers that existed in the past and break into the accounting profession. Webber said the lack of African Americans in the accounting field is still an issue today. Now, NABA awards scholarships to African-American accounting majors, and provides them with networking opportunities. Webber said she wants to start at UB to help black accounting students capitalize on opportunities that are available to them in the field.

“I felt like a lot of students, especially African-American students, don’t really know how to take ad- vantage of the opportunities,” Web- ber said. “So I thought with NABA that, coming from someone who was just like them, would help them understand and guide them through the process of getting your degree in ac- counting, sitting for your CPA exam.”

However, Webber said she’s running into some challenges in trying to start a chapter on campus, including graduation at the end of each semester.

“It’s hard to get people to commit if they graduate every semester,” Webber said. She said she’s found that some people don’t want to take ad- vantage of networking opportunities, even though that could help them in the future.

“Some people just have an attitude that ‘I just want to get my degree, I really don’t want to participate in any networking or any organizations,’” Webber said. In addition, she said that because some people work full- time, they don’t have the time to devote to such organizations. She said she’s not really sure what to do to get students to make the commitment so a chapter can be started at UB.

While she’s run into difficulty trying to start a NABA chapter at UB, Webber said she’ll continue to promote NABA she has been able to get students to sign up for the asso- ciation’s Baltimore regional chapter. School chapters that are members of the regional chapter include Towson, Morgan State and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. The University of Maryland-College Park also has a sizable NABA chapter.

In addition to awarding scholarships to students and providing them with networking opportunities, Webber explained that NABA sets up organizations at different universities throughout the country and, as part of the association’s community outreach, goes into high schools and talk about the accounting profession in an effort to get high school students interested in a career in ac- counting. She added that NABA has conferences in June every year where attendees can go for interviews, and current accountants can go to get Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits. This year’s conference was held in Bethesda. Webber says in the spring, NABA holds regional career development days throughout the country.

During those career development days, Webber explains that members come together, critique student resumes, and go over how to dress and prepare for an interview. Accounting firms and other businesses come to the events. Students can then upload their resumes onto an e-resume book that’s accessible to employers, who can then review resumes and schedule interviews.