A message of solidarity from Dean Anind Dey

Dear iSchool students,

The iSchool community recognizes that spring quarter 2020 has been extraordinarily difficult for a multitude of reasons, any one of which singularly, much less combined, poses great challenges for our students in focusing on their education.

As a global community, we continue to face a series of crises, and we stand with all of you who are struggling to manage and respond to the pandemic, the sheltering, the horrifying displays of racial injustice after decades of inaction, and the resulting consequences to our health, safety and socioeconomic fabric.

To provide more flexibility, our faculty have taken steps to empower and support students who have been impacted by these extraordinary times and those who feel compelled to participate in activities to demand social change. 

Class-specific accommodations (by discretion of instructor): Given our institution’s commitment to academic freedom, each individual instructor is empowered to make decisions related to grading and assignments for their individual classes. iSchool leadership has strongly encouraged our instructors to make any and all accommodations to support our students. We have asked all instructors to articulate if they are (or are not) offering accommodations and the specifics of these accommodations on their course Canvas sites in a subsection titled “Spring 2020 Special Accommodations.” If you are enrolled in an iSchool course and do not see any clarity in Canvas on what accommodations a specific instructor is making, please reach out to them to request they take action, and if you encounter resistance you can write to me, and I will encourage them even more strongly.

Spring 2020 grading options (approved UW-wide): The Registrar, the Graduate School, the Faculty Senate and the Provost’s Office have approved new grading options for students. These require no intervention on the part of instructors, so are accessible to all students regardless of any instructor's decision about accommodations: 1) S grades now count toward degree and graduation requirements, 2) there is now no limit on the number of S/NS credits students can have, 3) starting June 17, students can change an S/NS grade to a numeric grade or vice-versa for spring 2020 (or any quarter designated as an extraordinary circumstances quarter), and can change this anytime up until they graduate, whenever that is. (Note that students graduating this quarter must finalize by July 8), and 4) students can also apply, at no cost, for a Registrar Drop (formerly hardship withdrawal).

On a personal note, I have struggled with my own response to recent events as Dean of the Information School, as a parent and as an everyday citizen through the past several months, and especially in the weeks after the killing of George Floyd by police. As a person of color who has been the target of police harassment due to the color of my skin, I stand with the Black community, Indigenous people, and people of color who have to fight every day against institutional racism and inequities. As illustrated by our values statement, the iSchool stands with you. As described by President Ana Mari Cauce, the whole of UW stands with you. 

As we live in King County, named after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it seems only appropriate to quote him. He said: “... In all of our actions we must stick together. Unity is the great need of the hour, and if we are united, we can get many of the things that we not only desire but which we justly deserve.”

We must stand together for what is right and ensure that all members of our society are treated equally and with dignity. We must uniformly demand better from our leaders and those in positions of power, including those here at the UW and at the iSchool. We pledge to do better. We will be sharing more about what we are doing to advance diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the iSchool and how our students, alumni and partners can be involved in our process. And we are evaluating our progress to see where we have failed and where we might be able to redouble our efforts. We’ll share more soon about some of the things already under way and the work ahead. 

Take good care, and please do not hesitate to be in touch.

— Anind K. Dey, Professor and Dean