An empty classroom in WMU's Sangren Hall

An empty classroom in WMU's Sangren Hall leaves chairs pushed in neatly, patiently waiting for in-person instruction to begin again. 

A WMU student created a petition on calling for the university to add “COVID-19 Impact Fall 2020” to official transcripts. 

Alex Lawrence, a senior political science and public policy major, feels this statement would protect students in the future as they apply to graduate schools or jobs. The university documented “COVID-19 Impact” on transcripts with Spring 2020 classes, and he thinks students deserve the same courtesy this semester. 

“We are still very much in a global pandemic,” Lawrence wrote in the petition’s description. “And it’s still affecting students as it did in Spring 2020.”

Lawrence believed the move to online learning in the spring was difficult for students.

“For me personally, the transition going from in-person to online was very hard,” Lawrence said. “And it did affect my grades.”

He questioned what is different about this semester.

“Realistically, students are impacted more this semester. It’s not just three weeks, it’s the whole semester,” Lawrence said. “Students have no control if they can take in-person or online classes.”

As with many other students this semester, all of Lawrence’s classes are online. He feels the online class structure, especially the asynchronous model, negatively impacts students’ education. One major-specific course for him remains particularly frustrating.

“I’m basically having to teach myself,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence, who plans on graduating in Fall 2021, worries what his impacted grades and potential withdrawal will look like on his transcript as he applies to graduate school.

“Some schools might not be understanding,” Lawrence said. “They might want actual documentation. This is where that ‘COVID-19 Impact’ statement would protect students.”

He created the petition believing other students shared his frustrations and demands. As of Friday, Oct. 2, his petition has gathered 410 signatures, only 90 shy of the goal of 500. Additionally, 14 signers have written comments about their reasons for signing.

Many of the signers are concerned students.

“As a music major, I can tell you that this semester is highly impacted by COVID,” Kaleigh Roselli wrote. “I am in less ensembles, taking less credits, and getting less opportunities and my future grad school needs to be aware of this. I can’t even have normal lessons, but taking a gap year wasn’t an option for me.”

“As a student at Western, COVID has affected my quality of education immensely,” Stephanie Carr wrote. “Our struggles are well founded. That needs to be reflected on our records.”

Even Dr. Lisa Minnick of the Department of English wrote in support of the petition.

“I am seeing every day the impacts of this pandemic on students as they navigate their lives in the COVID era,” Minnick said. “Nearly all of them are having to cope with significant challenges, disruptions, and extra responsibilities, along with very real and legitimate fears for their safety and wellbeing... Acknowledging the extraordinary circumstances under which they are determinedly pressing on is literally the least we can do for them as an institution. I support their call for an annotated transcript.”

Lawrence plans to go to administration with the petition signatures and comments. He hopes to gather as many personal stories as he can. 

Lawrence also hopes this petition is a start to the university listening to and implementing student opinion into policies that affect them. 

“Are you actually going to take what we say and do something about it?” Lawrence asked of the university.

The university was unavailable for comment.

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