Q&A: We spoke with the student who created the petition to end the semester
The University of Arizona has sent out several statements about coronavirus and how the administration plans to prevent a widespread outbreak on campus.
The petition “End Spring 2020 Classes at UofA” was started by University of Arizona student Maritza Almanza, and, as of March 21, had 8,825 supporters. The Daily Wildcat got the opportunity to interview Almanza and ask her about the petition.
Daily Wildcat: What led you to create this petition?
Maritza Almanza: My friend wanted to know if anyone wanted to help digitally organize for students’ rights during the pandemic. He believed students should be partially reimbursed for tuition and should have access to pass/fail grading. I was personally very anxious to start classes again, and my friend helped me channel that into organizing the students. He sent me a rough draft of a letter he wrote to Robbins explaining his reasoning and his demands. I asked a few questions and then adapted that letter into the body of the petition. The rest is history.
DW: Why do you believe the university switching classes to online isn’t enough for students?
MA: Online classes are not inherently inaccessible. For some, it is the better option and the more convenient option for college classes. However, it is not accessible or convenient for every UA student. On the surface, not everyone can learn the same. I personally avoid online classes because I learn better in person. Now, let’s consider the struggles of many low-income students. Imagine if you don’t have an internet connection. Imagine if you don’t have your own personal computer. Imagine if your house is too loud to do video conferences. There are so many factors that stop low-income students from being able to learn online, even if it's their preferred method. The fact that online learning is the only safe way to continue classes right now is a sign that education is not as important as health.
DW: Can you explain the optional pass/fail system you are proposing?
MA: I’d like to clarify that I do not have specific answers for this question. This type of grading system can be practiced in different ways. I want to tell everyone that I do not work in administration. Many people questioned the logistics of the petition and the optional pass/fail system. In all honesty, I’m a UA student who thought the grading system in place was not sufficient for our unique situation. I started a petition to raise awareness and hopefully grab the attention of the people in power. Not having specific answers does not invalidate my petition or my ideas. It is actually not my job to know this or plan this. The university made a mistake, and I guided them to consider the perspective of students. Education is their job, and sympathizing with students to bring awareness was mine.
DW: How have you felt about the success of the petition so far? What do you think has made it successful so far?
MA: I’m very happy about the success of the petition. The petition reached 5,000 signatures in less than 8 hours. After that, I remember I went live on my personal Instagram to say thank you to everyone. It’s really incredible how many people supported the petition. I think the success of the petition lies in the uncertainty of the future. The coronavirus is creating a lot of dangerous situations; passing classes should not be prioritized over being physically healthy and protecting ourselves from the virus. More than 8,000 people saw my petition and agreed that passing classes should be made easier for us if they are going to continue.
Yesterday, March 20, an email was sent by the UA Office of the Provost that said the university will be instituting multiple new policies, including optional pass/fail grading.