How Far?

I enjoy FC for its diversity and welcoming of all people. It is truly a community I have enjoyed being a part of. One great aspect of the college that strikes my fancy is the Equity Theory, where all students have an opportunity to succeed. Throughout many college years, I endured many disadvantages that placed me on the lower end of the achievement scale. I wish the colleges I attended had such equity.

On campus, I hear many stories regarding accommodations given to students – adjusting time for exams, extra credit, certain seating arrangements, extending deadlines for assignments, having a different grading scale. I’m all for supporting students with such needs to succeed. I also had a thought come to mind recently – how far shall instructors allow accommodations?

Tragedies happen, and many of them are unexpected – becoming ill, family members who pass away, attending a healthcare appointment that had a long waitlist… I’m sure the list goes on. There are many valid reasons. I also am curious where instructors draw the line and determine what is deemed “allowable” versus inexcusable.

I also am troubled with the student gossip that a professor excused one student from a tardy assignment but did not excuse a different student later on for the exact same reason. I’m sure the majority of people would say this is unfair. I’m certain several professors have heard numerous reasons – “It’s just this once,” “It won’t happen again,” “I’m so sorry, but…” Perhaps there are valid reasons indeed, although we go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves what defines “valid?”

When one student is given an accommodation, other students would want the same to be “fair.” If not given to each student, then there is the assumption that the professor likes that student better. This will lead to an assumption that there is discrimination. Right?

What I have come to realize is that success is measured individually. There are many students who receive assessments for accommodations and receive documentation of such assistance. Of course they shall receive certain accommodations. Then, I wonder about anyone wanting assessments for such accommodations, reason being to “make life easier” through accommodations. There are some students who have shared with me this strategy they take. Sneaky? Maybe. Smart and strategic? Perhaps so.

Without creating a debate about who “deserves” accommodations and who does not, I’m actually wondering how much accommodations can actually be a hindrances toward many students’ success. This reminds me of a time in 10th grade History class when my instructor asked, “We take turns reading the lessons out loud in class. Is there anyone who has difficulty reading out loud, which can be excused.” After a few seconds, almost half the class raised their hands – myself included! I wanted the easy way out because I was too shy to read in front of class. However, time progressed and I became bored by just being passive. I eventually volunteered to read out loud. Initially, I was not a very good reader out loud, although I gradually became a better reader with such opportunities to practice. This helped me increase skills and self-confidence with public speaking later on during final presentation in the class. This earned me a higher grade!

Another example is when I was to work in groups in 9th grade Science class for the final project. We were a group of four – three people (who did absolutely nothing) and myself. I did all the work, but was not able to do everything the project asked for. I wanted an “A,” although the teacher gave us a “B” because of some work not efficiently completed (I wonder why?!). I spoke with the teacher afterward and explained my situation. He responded that he was not going to change the grade because it is learn experience to work with other group members, including the difficult ones.

From these experiences, I did learn that the easy way out may have not been the best for me. I truly agree what happened to me in the science group project was unfair, and the 9th grader back then took away nothing more than the “life sucks” attitude. The 10th grade reading experience taught me that sometimes things can be scary, although trying the more challenging way when ready can be beneficial in the long run.

What if I were to have taken many accommodations throughout my academic years – never joining a group project, never volunteering because I was shy, never taking the more challenging journey because I preferred the simpler way. I relate this to current students on campus. I am not saying that all students receive accommodations because they want the easy way – total misunderstanding. I do believe accommodations are necessary (including those documented). Although, I do wonder if students experiencing a lower grade from a missed assignment (when given several weeks to complete) could be a valuable lesson with learning to how plan ahead of time in case of unforeseen events. Does this not help with life lessons later on in the real world beyond college?

With this gray area that seems to be “case-by-case” determined, just how far do instructors go with allowing such accommodations?

I welcome other professors to share their experience regarding various accommodations and allowances.

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