10/19/ 20 University Senate, President Mitch Daniels

Purdue President Mitch Daniels presents the breakdown of modalities of instruction of the fall semester to the University Senate.

After a petition for a Reading Day by the student body president amassed over 10,000 signatures, the University Senate passed a resolution for an optional Reading Day Nov. 4, the day after Election Day.

The senate also voted to extend the deadline to withdraw or drop courses from Oct. 26 to Dec. 4. The extension to Dec. 4 was also granted for students to switch courses from a letter grade to Pass/Not Pass.

The Reading Day will serve as a break from classes for students and faculty. Instructors are not mandated to hold a Reading Day for the class to accommodate attendance requirements for certification or course objectives.

Erik Otarola-Castillo, the educational policy affairs committee chair and a professor of anthropology, explained the choice of the date.

“There were proposals for Election Day to be in line with President Daniels' and the University’s civic instruction. However, we thought we didn’t want to confound a break with a day of service,” Otarola-Castillo said. “The day after Election Day, when the outcome is found, no matter where people lie in the spectrum, it’s going to be tough for a subset of the University.

We wanted to keep it in the middle of the week to minimize any type of negative or adverse effects to potential mass travel with an elongated weekend.”

The majority of the faculty affairs committee was opposed to the Reading Day as summarized by Alexander Francis, the committee chair and professor of speech, language and hearing sciences.

“For example ... half the students go to lab on one day and not (the other), and it just gets very, very confusing," Francis said. "So at least the the general consensus was that it would be probably adding as much stress as it might be relieving."

An amendment raised by Purdue Student Government President Assata Gilmore to offer a Pass/Not Pass option, regardless of departmental and program requirements, sparked intense discussion.

Gilmore shared a statement from one of thousands of students in support of a Pass/Not Pass option.

“For many students, it will be a semi-truck worth of stress lifted off their shoulders,” said Mitchell Demerly, a senior in the College of Science. “We were never taught how to academically succeed in a virtual learning environment. It should not be expected to be graded.”

Many faculty expressed concern that broadening Pass/Not Pass to all courses would impact accreditation.

“Our students are not allowed to take classes as pass/no pass that are specifically in the nursing curriculum because the state board of nursing does not allow them to sit for licensure exams without a minimum GPA,” said Libby Richards, a professor in the school of nursing.

Kris Wong Davis, vice provost for enrollment management, talked about how alternative grading options are less the norm this semester than they were last semester.

“When we instituted the pass/no pass, most all institutions in the country also instituted pass/no pass, and most accrediting bodies also approved that,” Davis said. “I don't know that we've been in communication with any accrediting or any of the associations around licensure to see that same type of flexibility.”

Gillmore said the inclusion of mandatory meetings with advisers before making changes would help to resolve potential issues regarding accreditation and internal requirements.

A minimum grade of a C- is required for a passing grade. Passing grades will count only for degrees, admissions and prerequisites internal to Purdue in accordance with departmental and program requirements.

The amendment did not carry, with 43 votes against the amendment.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels provided updates on trends in the spread of COVID-19, expansions in mental-health services and a goal to increase the amount of in-person instruction during the spring semester.

With the upcoming football game Saturday, Daniels said there was considerable thought put into how students can safely watch football games.

“The best outcome would be if students in large numbers were allowed inside the stadium in a wide-open-air environment as opposed to where they are more likely now to be, which is enclosed quarters,” Daniels said, citing medical experts.

The Big Ten conference has barred stadium attendance, so the University is setting up locations to watch football at the Memorial Mall, Herrick North Lawn, Tarkington Hall, Purdue Village and Hilltop Apartments. These locations will be visited by the marching band and monitored by Student Life staff and Protect Purdue Ambassadors. Reservations will be required due to limited capacity.

Castillo said he hopes the Reading Day and other deadline extensions will provide some relief for students in this stressful semester.

“We believe that all members of our community, not just students," he said, "need to refresh their minds to maintain mental well-being and relieve body fatigue.”

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