A non-detriment system would set a minimum baseline grade below which no student can fall, allowing for a truly compassionate approach to assessment during these challenging times.
Over the past week, The Beaver’s reporting has shown the impact Covid-19 is having on our community. Students are clamoring for more protection and home inequalities are being exacerbated by the challenging times faced by the LSE community and wider world. Students are falling ill, losing family members, living under lockdown, and experiencing challenges never before faced.
The Beaver appreciates the unprecedented efforts being made by all academic and professional staff. It has been truly inspiring to see how most of the community has not only stuck together, but also gone above and beyond to help, improvise, and come up with innovative solutions to these new challenges. Despite LSE’s massive efforts to provide alternative assessment in the least disruptive way possible, we simply do not see how students can be expected to perform as if nothing else is going on outside their rooms.
More is required to promote fairness across departments and personal circumstances, and to ensure that LSE’s most vulnerable students are not left behind. LSE must implement a non-detriment, universal-pass system for the 2019-20 examination period.
In an email to students, Pro-Director for Education Dilly Fung attempted to assuage concerns by explaining that the exam board will have “the opportunity to exercise discretion for all students at the time of making final classification decisions to account for COVID-19 related disruptions.” Adding that “marks will be reviewed overall with this year’s events very much in mind, and with compassion.”
This leads us to ask: if the exam board will be adapting grades regardless, why not communicate this to students with a clearly defined policy that explains an otherwise opaque process of grade-adaption? These are not times for business as usual.
Assessment is usually taken under difficult circumstances, and driven LSE students do not expect to be spoon-fed achievements. However, there’s an ocean of difference between a challenging academic environment and the challenges manifested in a global pandemic. LSE faces a unique circumstance: our 70% international student body began to disperse around the globe after LSE went digital – The Beaver itself is working across seven time-zones. LSE must not only accommodate for challenging assessment contexts in the UK, but a disparate set of conditions: students around the globe face differing levels of pandemic response, restrictions on movement, provision of basic services, and even internet access.
Even with modified examinations taking place over longer time periods and the possibility to defer exams to late summer, we do not see how LSE can expect that all students will be able to face their assessments equally over the summer period. Working-class students, those with care duties, those with mental or physical health challenges, and students without stable access to technology or uncensored internet will be particularly poorly served by LSE’s current approach. We are also concerned about the potential for inequalities in the differential examination approaches adopted by departments around the School, which in some cases present students with vastly different expectations and time-scales.
Recognising this unprecedented challenge means that further accommodations must be made: a no-detriment policy, ensuring that students cannot do worse than their average performance on their previous year of study, will guarantee students the opportunity to outperform themselves, whilst those who face harsher obstacles are not punished for their decision to take assessments despite the circumstances. For first-years, General Course students, and others without grade history at LSE, universal pass should act as this baseline.
LSE would not be alone in taking these steps. Cambridge has endorsed the ‘safety net’ principle, matching similar policies at Durham, Warwick, Exeter, and Edinburgh, among others. Taking further steps to protect students at this stage would not make LSE look uncoordinated or weak: instead, it would demonstrate that the School is actively engaged with its student body, and willing to make fair adjustments to match the needs of its students during this unprecedented time.
This year, it has become obvious to this Editorial Board that school authorities often see The Beaver as more a disturbance than anything else. Director Shafik herself told an editor to “educate yourself” and, in a town hall, dismissed our reporting on LSE’s cleaners, saying “not everything you read in The Beaver is true.” This is not the time for further dismissals of student voices. If you do not trust The Beaver, trust the LSESU Sabbatical Officers, the students who signed petitions, the meme pages and Facebook posts, the students who reached out to us as sources, the professors who have voiced similar concerns, and the wider community of higher education providers who have taken these steps.
This is a simple, legal, and achievable policy. The message to students should be the following: Do your best, what you cannot control won’t harm you.
The Beaver Editorial Board and Team
|Morgan Fairless||Executive Editor||Politics and Philosophy, final year|
|Lucy Knight||Beaver Editor and incoming Executive Editor||Politics, 2nd year|
|Christina Ivey||Flipside Editor||Politics and International Relations, final year|
|Yasmina O’Sullivan||Multimedia Editor, incoming Features Editor||Politics, 2nd year|
|Ross Lloyd||Editorial Assistant||Government and History, final year|
|James Boucher||Managing Editor, incoming Managing Editor||PPE, 3rd year|
|Colin Vanelli||Features Editor, incoming Beaver Editor||History and International Relations, 2nd year|
|Raphaelle Camarcat||News Staff Writer||International Relations & History, 2nd year|
|Zehra Jafree||Review Editor, incoming Flipside Editor||IR and History, 2nd year|
|Grace Chapman||Comment editor, incoming Part B editor||International History, 2nd year|
|Ash Layo Masing||Deputy Multimedia Editor||Sociology, 3rd Year|
|Marianne Hii||Features Editor, incoming Features Editor||PPE, 2nd year|
|Sagal Mohamed||Staff Writer for Comment||PPE, 2nd year|
|Christiana Ajai-Thomas||Comment Deputy Editor, incoming Comment Editor||Sociology, 2nd year|
|Annabelle Jarrett||Features Editor||International History, postgraduate|
|Rhea Malviya||Staff Writer and Contributor for News/Features||ISPP, Postgrad|
|Gustav Hagild||Comment Editor||MSc Comparative Politics|
|Molly Horner||Review Deputy Editor, incoming Review Editor||Politics and History, 2nd Year|
|Emma de Carvalho||Multimedia Editor||Sociology, 3rd Year|
|Beatriz Silva||Beaver Sound and News Staff Writer||International Relations, 1st Year|
|Seth Rice||Sport Editor||Social Anthropology, 2nd yr|
|Laura Zampini||News Editor||International Relations, 2nd Year|
|Gabrielle Sng||Sport Editor, incoming Comment Editor||Law LLB, 2nd Year|
|Michael Shapland||Comment Editor||Government and Economics, 2nd Year|
|Angbeen Abbas||News staff writer and incoming Podcast Editor||Sociology, first year.|
|Ellie Reeves||Incoming Multimedia Editor||History, 2nd year|