A letter to Physical Sciences faculty and instructors

June 3, 2020
Re: Physical Sciences Spring 2020 Final Exams

Dear Physical Sciences Colleagues:

While the knowledge we are conveying to our students about the workings of the universe is essential, neither Math nor the laws of physics and chemistry will change this quarter. Our students will have time and opportunities to refine and update knowledge that we have been forced to impart in a less than ideal ways.  On the other hand, deep anxieties arising from sudden changes in learning mode, a world in economic downfall, and events exposing unbelievable social injustices are at a maximum.

In fact, there are things that are more important at this instant in time. Or as one of our students said so eloquently: “I believe it is more important now to know why the Black community is tired of being targeted by law enforcement, understand what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for, and invest time in educating oneself, than knowing that transition metals with partially filled d orbitals will emit specific colors.”

Please note that by current Academic Senate regulations, final exams are still required to be “held” for courses in which they were already scheduled, but instructors can change their method of final assessments. Therefore, in light of the racist events that our students are processing, we strongly urge you to consider a “no harm” policy for your upcoming finals.

In such a policy, students would be encouraged to take final exams if they are able, but grading would be structured in a way to ensure that performance on the final exam could only help and not harm a student’s final grade in the course. If this does not seem appropriate for your class, then you might consider adjusting grading scales to recognize that many students have been distracted from their studies by their vital need to involve themselves in the struggle for racial justice.

The enactment of such policies in our courses will demonstrate support for and solidarity with our students of color.

For additional guidance, see this EDI guidance for faculty acknowledgement and CEILS guidance for faculty actions.





Miguel A. García-Garibay        Albert Courey
Dean of Physical Sciences      Associate Dean of Physical Sciences for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion