COVID Help: $300,000 to Study How Traditional College Grading Perpetuates Systemic Inequalities | Judicial Watch

COVID Help: $300,000 to Study How Traditional College Grading Perpetuates Systemic Inequalities

A public university is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Biden administration’s fraud infested COVID relief fund to study how traditional grading in college perpetuates systemic inequalities toward nontraditional and rural students. “Common classroom practices, such as grading and the use of grades to assess knowledge and performance, may have unintended consequences on students who invariably derive an awareness of their own academic abilities from the results of those grading structures,” according to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is doling out the money. “In fact, these traditional practices may inadvertently create and promote inequities among different student groups, particularly in large enrollment courses, but these issues have largely been unexplored.”

Beginning early next year, the agency will give North Dakota State University (NDSU) $300,000 to explore the phenomenon. The project is officially titled “Reimagining Grading to Support Nontraditional and Rural Students in High Enrollment, Gateway STEM Courses” and it will be funded by the American Rescue Plan of 2021, the nearly $2 trillion measure passed by Democrats to provide immediate and direct relief to families and workers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis through no fault of their own. When the law passed last spring, the Biden administration promoted it as one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in history that would build a bridge to an equitable economic recovery. The administration justified the measure by asserting that the public health crisis and resulting economic crisis devastated the health and economic wellbeing of millions of Americans, particularly people of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers.

The reality is that a lot of the money—billions and counting—has gone to unrelated causes and the administration’s monstrous taxpayer funded COVID relief program is rife with fraud and corruption. The problem is so bad that the Department of Justice (DOJ) created a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to “enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.” The special unit has been quite busy prosecuting a multitude of scams, false statements, and money laundering related to pandemic relief. This month House Republicans issued a report documenting 500 days of massive waste, fraud, and abuse in the American Rescue Plan. It includes more than $783 million in stimulus checks for convicted prisoners including the Boston Marathon bomber, $40 million to expand libraries in Delaware, $2 million for a Florida golf course and $16 million for electric vehicle charging stations in Maine and $20 million to modernize the state’s fish hatcheries. The list goes on and on.

The scathing report may seem like the $300,000 for the latest questionable project is a drop in the bucket, but it highlights that cash flow has not been deterred by waste. The NDSU researcher (Tara Slominski) who will conduct the study beginning next year claims in a university article that that traditional grading practices perpetuate systemic inequities for college students. “Her work will directly address this challenge by providing STEM faculty with equitable and practical assessment and grading approaches to better support today’s college students,” the piece states, adding that the work will create more equitable learning environments. Slominski teaches biology at NDSU and has already developed a curriculum to promote success among at-risk students. She claims that “the findings from this work will help faculty across the country and across disciplines create more equitable learning environments that are better suited to support the needs of today’s college students.”

The NSF, which funds more than a quarter of research conducted at American colleges with its $8.5 billion annual budget, explains that Slominski’s postdoctoral research fellowship project seeks to examine the impact of grading practices on self-concept and STEM persistence with a special focus on rural and nontraditional students. “The project has promise to produce new insights about equitable classroom and grading practices for rural and nontraditional students that are compatible with the constraints of high enrollment gateway courses,” the agency writes in the grant announcement. It is not clear how this may provide immediate and direct relief to families and workers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis through no fault of their own as the American Rescue Plan intended.
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Colleges may face lawsuits over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

Colleges may face lawsuits over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

  • By Christian M. Wade Statehouse reporter
  • May 13, 2021


BOSTON — More colleges are telling students to get a COVID-19 vaccination before coming back to campus this fall, but legal experts say the mandates could spur legal challenges.

A stream of private and public colleges have said vaccinations will be mandatory. They include Northeastern University and Boston University, as well as all state universities in Massachusetts.

In most cases, students will be expected to arrive on campus fully vaccinated, unless they have a medical, disability or religious exemption.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said more than 300 higher learning institutions have decided to require COVID-19 vaccinations and the number “continues to grow.”

“They want to make sure that the students, faculty and staff are protected in situations where there is a residential environment and the risk is greater,” she said.

Legal experts say the mandates could leave colleges open to lawsuits — even if they may ultimately be unsuccessful.

That’s because all three COVID-19 vaccines in use — produced by Pfizer, Cambridge-based Moderna and Johnson and Johnson — are only authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration.

Pfizer and Moderna are seeking full approval from the FDA, but the process is expected to take several months.

Joel Rosen, an Andover attorney who specializes in health care law, said mandating vaccines that aren’t fully FDA approved is “a bit of a gray area.”

“It does increase the likelihood that someone could successfully challenge a decision by a college to require a vaccine that is only approved for emergency use,” he said.

Still, Rosen said he doubts such a challenge would succeed.

He pointed out that public schools and colleges have for years required incoming students to be vaccinated against measles and other infectious diseases.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance in December that federal law doesn’t prevent private employers from requiring vaccines or proof of vaccination from employees.

“It’s hard to see how a college would be different from an employer in enacting a neutral rule which is logically calculated to preserve the health of students,” Rosen said.

To be sure, there are no federal or state mandates for COVID-19 vaccines in schools or colleges, public or private.

Gov. Charlie Baker has said he opposes vaccine “passports” and other mandates and won’t require the state’s workforce to get vaccinated.

Baker, a Republican, has also pushed back on questions about whether he will require students to get vaccinated, with 12-15 year-olds becoming eligible on Thursday.

Last month, Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges said they don’t plan to mandate vaccinations, citing concerns about the potential impact on minorities and other students with “disproportionate access” to vaccines and the fact most don’t have on-campus housing.

Lane Glenn, president of Northern Essex Community College, said he believes mandates won’t be necessary because most college students will be vaccinated by the fall.

“We are expecting 80 to 90% of our students to be vaccinated,” he said. “So by the time September rolls around, I suspect this will be much less of an issue.”

Glenn also suggests there is a profit motive behind the decision of large private universities to require vaccines for on-campus students.

The cost of room and board can range from $12,000 to $15,000 a year. Many private colleges took big financial hits last year after shutting down their campuses and moving to remote learning.

“The money involved in dormitories and cafeterias is too huge to pass up,” he said.

Pasquerella said the mandates face pushback in states such as Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a law banning businesses, schools and local governments from requiring proof of vaccination.

The University of California’s sprawling 23 campus system also plans to require students to get vaccinated in the fall, but not until the FDA has given final authorization.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in more than 40 states have filed proposals seeking to ban or curtail vaccine mandates, according to the National Conference State Legislatures.

Rosen said he expects legal challenges from conservative groups, anti-vaccine groups or others “who believe the vaccines are somehow dangerous.”

“This country is so divided,” he said. “Unfortunately, something that should be a medical decision has become a political decision. But the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at

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