Category Archives: News

Academic policies change for 2020 Spring Semester due to COVID-19 pandemic

Waverly Hart

Editor in Chief

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to online learning, the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) has made several major changes to the academic policy for the 2020 Spring Semester. 

Many of the changes relate to a student’s ability to pass/fail a class. One of the primary changes is that students are able to pass/fail any and as many courses as they would like, even those in their major or minor, which is usually prohibited. According to The College of Wooster website, “courses elected as Pass-Fail for the Spring Semester 2020 will not count toward the maximum number of Pass-Fail courses that a student may take at Wooster.” Additionally, the deadline to pass/fail and drop courses has been extended to the last day of classes, May 1, at 4:00 p.m. Independent Study will retain a standard grading system, but there was a one-week grace period where students could submit their projects past the deadline without a petition.

Dean of Curriculum and Academic Engagement Bryan Karazsia, co-chair of EPC, said the changes were made so students could have flexibility and hopefully adapt to the changes in learning and class structure.

“The main reasoning is because our context is completely different than what any of us expected when the school year began… than when any school year begins,” Karazsia said. “We wanted to build as much flexibility for students into our policies as we could do so, reasonably. Any student may always petition for further exceptions, but we also try to build a system that minimizes the need for students to petition.”

The process for students petitioning is different as well. There is now a more streamlined petition process for course additions, drops, grade changes, and double major proposals. All petitions will be completed online. 

Because of the circumstances , Karazsia said these changes were not made in the usual fashion. “These decisions were made rapidly, and not through typical channels, due to the rapid evolution of circumstances pertaining to COVID-19,” Karazsia stated. “The timing of societal evolutions coincided with our Spring Break period, too, which contributed to the unique processes of decision-making.”

Basliel Ababayehu ’22 is on EPC and was part of the decision process to make these changes. He believes these changes will make online learning more equitable for all students. 

“These policies attempt to maintain equity as some students will experience varying degrees of stressors due to their location, reduced family income or access to learning tools while also recognizing that this is a generally stressful period for all students,” Ababayehu stated. “These policies ensure that students can remain in their major or graduate on time despite a momentary underperformance due to COVID-19.” 

While the changes made represent  major differences to Wooster’s academic policy in a traditional semester, some colleges went a step further and have decided to automatically make all their courses pass/fail for the 2020 Spring Semester. Karazsia said the College considered this, but decided against it.

“Ultimately we wanted students to have the autonomy to choose what works best for them,” he said. “Of course, our advisors are here to help students think about what might be in their best interest, though the decision is the student’s … Our policy on ‘good academic standing’ requires all students to have a semester and cumulative GPA at or above 2.0. There are students who are working very hard to increase their GPAs to return to good academic standing (which can have important implications for federal financial aid and other opportunities), and we wanted them to still have the option of earning their grades. Other students may be trying to increase GPAs for other reasons, and again, we wanted students to have that option. Ultimately, we wanted students to own the decision, and we are always here to help students navigate their academic decisions.”

Ababayehu says he is happy with the speed and flexibility with which the College has implemented policies. “I think this is a very welcome move for students because it offers flexibility,” he stated. “This is beneficial for all students because the students who were happy with their grades can keep them while those most affected by the virus can choose to continue learning without fear of a lower GPA.”

Bolton announces virtual commencement, senior celebrations during B&G Weekend

Waverly Hart

Editor in Chief

 On Friday, April 10, President Sarah Bolton announced that The College of Wooster would be holding a virtual graduation ceremony to celebrate the class of 2020’s accomplishments and time at the College.

Bolton announced this in an email sent to seniors. The virtual commencement ceremony will be held on Monday, May 11 at 1:00 p.m. EST, the same day as the in-person celebration would have been. There will be a virtual Baccalaureate ceremony on May 10 at 1:00 p.m. The email also stated that an in-person celebration for the class of 2020 would take place during Black and Gold Weekend which will be October 23-25. 

Bolton said that many of the missed senior spring events would be held during Black and Gold Weekend. “We plan to hold an I.S Monday parade, to recognize your academic accomplishments, and to host the Lavender Celebration and Multi-Cultural Stole Ceremony, including presenting students with their stoles,” Bolton stated in the email. 

However, some seniors were not happy with the revised commencement plans. Some took to social media to voice their concerns, the primary of which being a perceived lack of student input when making the decision .

To address this, Bolton said students will have input in planning Black and Gold Weekend. “Our plan had been to reach out to ask seniors what they would like to see happen for the weekend of celebrations in their honor, so that we could create a gathering that would be best for seniors and families,” Bolton said. Additionally, Bolton said that she is aware of student opinion.

“We also are listening to the many seniors who wrote to us overnight, some of whom want an earlier celebration (August) and others who want something much later (May of ’21),” Bolton stated in an email.  “We are doing everything we can to create a celebration that is best for everyone, knowing that there are many different circumstances and needs in the class.”

Other students are afraid many won’t be able to return to campus for Black and Gold Weekend. Bolton said she is aware of this, and its part of what led to the decision to hold a virtual ceremony.

“Knowing that [travelling back to Wooster is difficult] was part of what made us want to make the virtual celebration on May 11th a little more than just the ‘official’ granting of degrees, so that those who may not be able to come back to Wooster at all in the coming year would still have something they could be a part of,” Bolton stated. 

Bolton said it was important that there was both a virtual ceremony as well as an in-person celebration. She affirmed the College’s commitment to holding this in-person celebration, emphasizing in a follow-up email on April 11, “We definitely will have a full, in-person commencement ceremony including all of the parts of the program—processions of students and faculty, bagpipers, honorary degrees, speakers and reading of individual names when we gather in person.”

Since announcing the decision, Bolton said she has heard a lot of feedback from seniors and said this is “all changing quickly as we speak … we understand that many seniors are not happy with this approach, understandably, and will think on it further to see what else could work.”

At the end of the initial email, Bolton confirmed how proud she was of the class of 2020.

“In this challenging season, please know how proud we are of all of you,” the email read.  “You were already a special class before COVID-19, and now you are learning, caring for others, persevering and making a difference in a historic time.  I am so looking forward to watching your futures unfold, and to seeing the positive impact you will make across the US and around the world.”

COVID-19 updates following student meeting with administration

Claire Montgomery
Senior News Writer

A meeting was held at 3:30 p.m. on March 12 to update students about the College’s decision to close campus until at least April 5 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Sarah Bolton hosted the meeting, with several other administration in attendance.Bolton spent the first part of the meeting giving an update on the situation, saying that theCollege is getting new information hourly and that they are hosting this event and future conversations because they want students to be aware of what is going on. She reiterated that the College is following guidance from organizations leading the response against COVID-19 such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and public health experts at the county, state and national level. Bolton stated that the Ohio Health Department confirmed that there are five cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, including three in Cleveland and one in Canton. Moreover, the illness is likely circulating in the larger regional community, and once the illness is circulating, will probably circulate for a while.

On Tuesday, March 10, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio held a conference call with all the presidents of the universities and colleges in Ohio and discussed the role that colleges play in transmitting diseases. DeWine took the seemingly drastic actions of recommending that all universities and colleges in Ohio go to remote classrooms and to remove students from dorm room housing because people on campuses live and work particularly close which will make the disease more easily spread. This is also needed because people are contagious before they show symptoms.

“The moment you need to act, it will seem ridiculous to do so,” Bolton stated. “[But] by the time more people start to become ill, it is too late to take those actions. That’s why governor is doing things that seem drastic.”

In Bolton’s initial email sent on March 12 she stated, “There will be no in-person classes between March 23 and April 3. We hope to resume in-person classes on April 6, if health conditions permit.” However, she said to expect the dates to continue to change as updates occur. When referencing the idea that some students wanted more certainty about the situation, Bolton stated, “I would love to be able to tell you that [we will be back by April 6], but the true answer is the health situation is changing daily.”

The CDC recommended that the College follow its recommendations, including reduce as much as possible the number of people living densely on campus as quickly as possible, limit travel and to limit gatherings of large groups. Bolton stated that any following update meetings would be remote in order to maintain such guidelines.Therefore, students are asked to be off campus until at least April 5. “This is a burden for everyone, and impossible for some people,” Bolton stated, referencing students who live abroad, do not have a safe place to go and can’t afford travel expenses. “If you absolutely need to be here, we will make it possible for you to be here. There will be food, there will be support.”

If students do not have the resources to leave campus, the College will work with the student to cover the cost. Students in such circumstances are to put that information in the student planning form that Bolton sent out in her March 12 email (a revised version was sent by Myrna Hernández later on March 12). When asked where the College is getting the money for students to travel home, Bolton stated, “I don’t know where that money is coming from. We are going to make it happen anyway. Period. I’m serious. My worry this week is not budget, my worry this week is taking care of students.”

Bolton also addressed the students who are counting on student jobs, saying that the College is working on it. Bolton acknowledged that there is not a full answer, but that the COVID-19 Task Force is trying to figure out what they can do to manage or makeup for that missing income. Regarding what will happen to hourly staff who may rely on their income from the College to sustain their livelihood, Bolton noted that hours would not be cut because those workers will still be needed for the students that remain on campus. Additionally, the College is dedicated to working with employees who may need to stay home with their children since Wooster public schools have closed for several weeks.

“No one is losing income because they have to stay home,” Bolton said.

A common worry from students was how the school would manage going to an online platform, especially for discussion, performance and lab-based classes. Bolton stated that they do not have a concrete plan in place, but that there are discussions in place for each department — led by the relevant faculty — and that information would be coming shortly with such details.Because the College is not the only school in the country facing such challenges, universities and colleges across the country are asking the same types of questions and starting to come up with solutions that will be shared among different institutions. For students who left course materials behind because they expected to be able to come back to campus after spring break, Bolton acknowledged that the College is aware of such circumstances and that faculty are trying to figure out how to work around that. Students who are in a position to come back to campus to collect personal and class materials will be allowed to do so. If something was left that a student needs, they are encouraged to fill out the student planning form or contact the Dean of Students’ Office.

Another common question concerned Independent Study. “If you’re here, feel free to turn in I.S.,” Bolton stated. The due date was moved from March 23 to March 25 to allow for a couple of buffer days, and that students who are not on campus should email their document to the registrar, which is tracking the sequencing so students will still know the order in which they turned in. Seniors are encouraged to follow the instructions emailed to them specifically on March 12. Bolton emphasized the everything will be done to make sure Wooster seniors will get some type of celebration for their accomplishments.

In responding to a question about the likelihood of a refund to students for room and board, Bolton said that there may be some kind of refund, but that it hasn’t been completely figured out because it depends on how long students are required to stay off of campus. Bolton reiterated that the College is concentrating on “health stuff first and that kind of stuff second,”but it is still an important discussion the Task Force and others are focusing on. For students who are remaining on campus, Bolton assured them that dining options would be available. “We are trying to make it as good as it can be while also as safe it can be,” she said.

International students raised questions about their visa status and whether or not they should stay on campus. “If your visa requires you to be in the U.S., we will make sure you can stay in Wooster,” Bolton said. International students with questions about visas or U.S. students who will return from an outside country should reach out to International Student Services (ISS) and those with questions about traveling to and from virus hotspots in the U.S. can reach out to the Dean of Students.

According to ISS staff, alumni, host families or willing students will not be encouraged to host students who do not want to stay on campus or travel home, but they will not be dissuaded from doing so. This will be at the discretion of the interested parties and will not be officially facilitated by the College.

Bolton emphasized that administrative offices remain open and that students and other concerned parties are encouraged to get in touch if they have questions. The Dean of Students office, CDI, the chaplain, the president’s office, ISS and the student affairs team all remain open and accessible. The Wellness Center will be open to calls starting Mach 13 for students who may be concerned they are exhibiting symptoms of the virus and the next steps that should be taken; they are also looking into providing counseling services for students whose mental health has taken a toll throughout these events. Even if it seems unnecessary, all students are able to fill out the student planning form. Additionally, the Student Government Association (SGA) will be providing shuttles before March 19 for those on campus who need to get to the airport and will provide updates regarding their status. The College has setup an email specific to the COVID-19 virus that people can contact: wooster-covid-19@wooster.edu.

Overall, Bolton emphasized that the administration is taking everything into account and students will be updated as soon as decision are made, most likely starting at the same time every day so students can look for an update at that time.