Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 16 issue of The Daily Texan.
About half of all UT undergraduates finished fall 2020 with honors, an increase from the previous four semesters, according to data obtained by The Daily Texan.
The number of undergraduates who took a Q-drop for a class decreased in spring 2020 to 5,333 from 6,914 in fall 2019, but increased again in fall 2020 by about .5%, which put it slightly below levels in semesters before the COVID-19 pandemic started. The number of undergraduates finishing the semester with honors has been increasing since spring 2019, but the jump for fall 2020 showed the biggest increase of about 6% compared to spring 2020.
Cassandre Alvarado, associate dean for undergraduate education for the Moody College of Communication, said having pass/fail options could have been one reason for the increase, because it allows students to be more strategic about the classes they put their energy into.
“In trauma situations, we sometimes don’t perform our best because we’re using all of our mental energy to try and take care of the very basic needs we have as humans,” said Alvarado, who has led various student success initiatives previously. “I’m pleasantly surprised that there are students performing well, but I also know that we need to continue to keep an eye out for students who didn’t have that experience who need the support of the University in order to continue being successful.”
Uwazi Zamani, a dance and African and African diaspora studies senior, received honors last semester. Zamani said he has received honors every semester since transferring in fall 2019 while taking 20 credit hours. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, he said he had so much “disdain” for online classes.
“But the reality was … we didn’t have a choice,” Zamani said. “One of the things that was useful for me … was (that) there’s more agency at home. We were so used to the hustle and bustle of going from one building on campus to another … that it was really just like, ‘OK, I’ve got time to focus.’”
Journalism junior Kriss Conklin, who received honors for the first time last semester, said if the University listened to the student body more, students would be able to focus on academics rather than organizing and advocating for change.
Conklin said issues like students’ access to mental health care, replacing “The Eyes of Texas” and bad communication during Winter Storm Uri are just some examples of how students’ needs are not being met.
“UT just really needs to really listen to students more and what they’re asking for, because we are constantly organizing and petitioning for things … and I have seen no improvements,” Conklin said. “Until that happens, I don’t know where students will be, I don’t know where I’m going to be when it comes to doing well in school if I know I’m constantly worrying about other things.”