After the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, American universities made the unprecedented decision to shutter their campuses and send students home.
To account for the disruption brought to students’ lives, many universities instituted pass-fail grading policies, relaxed their admissions requirements, and enacted other temporary adjustments to traditional measures of student performance.
Many of these changes, however, are turning out to be far more than temporary. Some universities are stretching their lax admissions policies for the next several years. Others are claiming that grading students’ work based on merit is “white supremacy.”
Here are five examples of skepticism toward objective performance in schools that point to a decline in American higher education.
Stanford University — No MCAT necessary for medical students
Stanford University decided that they would admit students to medical school without the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
As the Association of American Medical Colleges describes, the MCAT “is a standardized, multiple-choice examination created to help medical school admissions offices assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.”
Though the Association of American Medical Colleges resumed examinations in late May 2020, Stanford Medical School — which is currently ranked fourth among best medical schools for research — allowed students to apply without exam scores for the following four months “in fairness to all applicants.”
Stanford also lightened its standards for graduate school applicants in other departments. For instance, physics applicants were able to skip the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).
Graduate Student Council co-chair Kari Barclay hinted that many students and faculty at Stanford supported the lesser requirements for reasons other than the pandemic: “In the COVID era, what we’re seeing is that the inequalities that existed beforehand are exacerbated. From my perspective and those [of others] I know, we recognize that objective measures are never entirely objective.”
One more addition to the list of reasons to avoid COVID-19: the medical school resident shoving a ventilator down your throat may not be as qualified as one may assume.
University of Virginia — Two more years of lowered admissions standards
The University of Virginia extended its test-optional policy to the year 2023.
Though it had waived its SAT and ACT requirements for high school seniors applying in 2021, the University of Virginia — which is ranked twenty-sixth among national universities and fourth among public colleges — announced that it would remain test-optional for the next two years.
“We believe this is a reasonable and humane response to one pressure that our prospective students are facing as a result of COVID-19,” University of Virginia President Jim Ryan said in a statement. “We want students to focus on things they can control: doing their best in school; cultivating their curiosity; contributing to their families, schools and communities.”
Ryan hopes that the lax policy will make admissions more “accessible and equitable” for applicants.
To commemorate two years of test-free admissions, University of Virginia founder Thomas Jefferson — who wrote in 1820 that “to penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education” — did two spins in his grave.
Arizona State University — Grading students is ‘white supremacy’
A professor at Arizona State University believes that grading students on merit represents “white supremacy.”
Writing instructor Asao Inoue argued in his book Labor-Based Grading Contracts: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Compassionate Writing Classroom that educators should assign “final course grades purely by the labor students complete, not by any judgments of the quality of their writing.”
“While the qualities of student writing is still at the center of the classroom and feedback, it has no bearing on the course grade,” writes Inoue. “Why take our judgments of quality out of the tabulation of course grades and progress in a course? Because all grading and assessment exist within systems that uphold singular, dominant standards that are racist, and White supremacist when used uniformly.”
“Grading, because it requires a single, dominant standard, is a racist and White supremacist practice,” he continued.
Inoue quipped on social media that in order to help black students develop “positive racial identity,” educators “gotta destroy grading, destroy the White habits of language that make all standards of language in classrooms, not to ignore them but to stop thinking they are THE keys to success and good communication, critical thinking, etc.”
Democrats in Georgia who doubt the ability of African-Americans to procure voter IDs have officially been one-upped in the race to normalize the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
University of Pittsburgh — Passing grades for missing assignments
The University of Pittsburgh changed its grading policy to let students with incomplete or missing assignments receive a “G.”
The school — which had previously transitioned away from pass-fail grading — will allow students to receive letter grades for assignments that were never submitted during the spring 2021 semester.
“If you run into problems trying to complete a course, we will be modifying the ‘G grade’ (incomplete for extenuating circumstances) process to facilitate taking a bit more time to complete a course, if needed,” said Vice Provost Joseph McCarthy in an announcement. “This new process will allow a ‘fallback grade’ to be recorded in cases where a student has done enough to achieve a passing grade in a course but would like more time to finish some well-defined final assignments. As with all G grades, you will need to work out those details with your instructor.”
Many professors supported the new policy.
“You need to recognize that what constitutes ‘A’ work in the pandemic is different from what constitutes ‘A’ work in normal times,” commented international affairs professor Ilia Murtazashvili. “People should be able to get an ‘A,’ even if they’ve been at 50 percent ability to do their work or less the past year.”
Rumor has it that “G” is short for “giving American economic supremacy to China.”
University of California-Riverside — Everyone gets 100%
A University of California-Riverside gender studies professor nixed his course’s final exam and handed all of his students perfect scores.
“I canceled my students’ final and just gave them all 100 on it,” Professor Brandon Andrew Robinson — operating under the username “DrKittyGirl” — boasted on Twitter. “And I structured my winter classes around not having a final. I don’t know, maybe we should just abandon the construct that is the final.”
“I mean, is there any studies or proof that shows that finals are good? Or actually do something?” he continued.
Williamson Evers — former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush — explained the dangers of canceling finals to Campus Reform.
“No-finals is part of the erosion of standards in American higher education,” said Evers. “Students are all too eager to slough off required reading or skip lectures. Cumulative finals are important for giving students an incentive to do the work. If college diplomas don’t mean hard, disciplined academic performance, then why not just give them to every child at birth?”
Rather than canceling gender studies finals as “DrKittyGirl” recommends, perhaps academics should scrap gender studies departments altogether?
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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