A note about students’ changing learning environments these last weeks of the term

While we remain entirely remote, from this week onward many of us will teach students from homes they share with parents, siblings, and others. This has always been true–many of our students share space with other people and need to attend Zoom classes from spaces that other people have access to–but it will be true for more students over the holiday week. 

This is worth noting for a couple of reasons: many students will have increased connectivity and technology issues; some students may be quarantining due to travel; and some students may have roommates or family members in the room while they are in class, which may affect their participation in various ways. 

In particular, it is possible that some faculty will get feedback from parents about their class content. FERPA continues to apply to our interactions with students and our management of their grades, as you already know, but it is possible that, during these unusual weeks, parents will be more involved than we are used to. This may result in some students speaking up less, or speaking up in more limited ways; it may result in some extra voices in class discussions; and, as noted above, it may result in feedback about your class that comes from parents instead of your students. Of course, it may have a limited or no effect at all.

We want to let you know that UA can be a resource for you if you get feedback, such as negative responses to class content or student grades, from parents or anyone else. UA’s role in such a conflict would be supportive, helping you to understand your options and providing a sounding board for you to figure out what to do. But we do want you all to know that we are here and we want to help. In addition to helping faculty navigate work-related challenges, we also have a role in solving such problems if they become a pattern. We won’t know if issues with parental involvement, for example, are becoming a pattern and a problem until and unless multiple faculty let us know. You might also consult the Registrar’s pages on the Federal Educational Records Protection Act which limits the information that faculty can provide to others (parents, friends) without formal release of their educational records. Please reach out!

We hope that the end of the term treats you and your students well, and of course we hope you don’t encounter any new challenges from the increase in students returning home for the holiday. We also encourage you to read our statement about accommodating students, if you haven’t already. 

Wishing you and your families a safe, healthy, and, as much as possible, relaxing holiday weekend this week,

Your United Academics Executive Council