Barnard and Columbia administrators requested faculty provide accommodations for students in the wake of the death of Barnard first-year Tessa Majors—encouraging professors to make arrangements for make-up exams and extend the due dates of final exams and projects. Barnard has also waived the $10 handling fee for deferred exams, which can typically only be requested on the day of the test.
The message the community comes a day following the fatal stabbing of Majors in Morningside Park during an attempted robbery by a group of one to three individuals, according to police. She was found unconscious by a public safety officer and was pronounced dead upon arrival at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital. Students and community members commemorated the life of Majors at two separate vigils—one at Barnard that was heavily attended by her peers and the other in Morningside Park, hosted by New York anti-violence advocates.
Columbia sent a brief statement to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences asking they accommodate students “to whatever reasonable extent possible,” including providing options of make-up exams and extending due dates of final assignments and projects. In a separate statement to students, administrators encouraged them to reach out to advisers in the case that their academic work has been affected.
“We encourage you to reach out to the many people who are here to support you, including your academic advisers. Please let them know if you feel that your finals and other academic work are being affected,” the email read.”
Barnard outlined specific guidelines to be communicated to its faculty and students in the case that students do not attend exams or submit final assignments.
The email, sent by Provost Linda Bell, informed faculty of alternative procedures for finals in the case that students do not attend exams or do not submit final projects. According to the email, which Bell then forwarded to all Barnard students at around 7 p.m. on Thursday, Barnard deans, the registrar, and the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty have all been in communication with students since the incident occurred to find ways to accommodate what was “a very difficult day for this community.”
In her email, Bell emphasized to faculty that students should still fill out a deferred exam or incomplete form, but that any student who requests a deferral or incomplete should receive it, and no student will receive penalties or additional fees.
The email states that if students do not attend exams or request deferrals, they will receive an “X” on their transcripts, to be replaced by the final grade once the student takes the exam, which will likely be administered at the end of January. The email states that the college is currently working to potentially expand the list of exam dates for the semester, and it encourages faculty to make alternative arrangements such as canceling the exam completely and providing a range of options to students.
The email says that while students should be encouraged to inform their class dean of their intentions to defer exams, faculty could also communicate the procedure on the student’s behalf. Typically, such last-minute, urgent requests are made only on the day of the exam and are considered on a case-by-case basis for an emergency or illness.
If students do not submit a final assignment or request an incomplete, the email informs faculty to place an “I” on a student's transcript to be replaced by the final grade. It encourages faculty to provide options such as extending the due-date of existing assignments. Usually, Barnard students must receive approval from their instructor to qualify for an incomplete. At Columbia, incompletes are only granted due to illness deemed incapacitating by Columbia Health, family emergencies, or situations of similar severity.