Auburn’s beloved Tigers carry a roster hovering around 100 student athletes, while some programs struggle to field a team. The Tigers also boast some of the most up-to-date athletic facilities that rival some professional organizations, while some collegiate programs have to fundraise just to have some workout equipment.
It would be the understatement of the century to say college athletic programs across the country are on equal footing when it comes to the resources at their disposal, and die-hard SEC fans are the first to let you know conferences can’t come close to the SEC’s grip as hegemon of the NCAA.
The stark difference between opportunity and resources at Auburn and say, Arkansas State, is wider than an Alabama kicker’s field goal.
Anyone with a modicum of understanding of college football is fully aware that it is no way an equitable system.
Despite a seemingly legitimate curse on Nick Saban-recruited kickers, Alabama competes for a national championship year after year, while fanbases such as Vanderbilt’s would be thrilled to get a single conference win this year.
And just like in football, Auburn’s student body has a greatly varying availability of resources, opportunities and even time.
Look across Auburn’s campus, and you’ll see students from all walks of life — from different countries, different races, different cultures and different backgrounds. Admittedly, not as many as there should be, but that’s a different editorial for a different week.
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So, just as it’s no surprise when Auburn decisively stomps a team from the MAC, it should come as no surprise when a student from an upper-middle class white family with no job and no student loans outperforms an international student working a second job just to get by.
Furthermore, the restrictions and obstacles brought about by COVID-19 make the discrepancies in college football programs even more glaring. Similarly, the pandemic has more clearly exposed the inequities in higher education.
But this is where the parallel should end.
Football is a game inherently meant to determine winners and losers. It’s not meant to be equitable in any sense of the word. College, however, hasn’t and never should resemble a place to divide students between the haves and the have nots. College isn’t just about the knowledge learned and the ideas discussed. It’s about further developing one’s identity, expanding one’s perspective and cultivating fundamental values.
Don’t believe us? Look no further than our very own University’s Creed, which lays out the values and attitudes Auburn men and women should harbor.
So, when a student who doesn’t have Wi-Fi connection at their apartment doesn’t do as well on an exam as a student with a private room and study quarters at an expensive downtown apartment, the circumstances that produced the unequal outcome shouldn’t be reinforced and perpetuated in an unfair and antiquated grading system.
In March, when the University was initially moving to mostly remote instruction, it also announced a new and temporary grading system of optional satisfactory or unsatisfactory grades that were later determined to be possible if discussed between the student and instructor.
Similar to the grading system in place in certain courses already offered at the University, the new grading option allowed for students to determine whether they would receive a traditional letter grade or if the instructor would award a satisfactory or unsatisfactory grade to the student. There were further stipulations on how it was implemented, but the basic idea for its enactment was to allow students to close some of the learning gap widened by COVID-19.
For the most part, the announcement was welcomed by student and faculty alike, and it was proven to be a popular adjustment for colleges and universities throughout the country.
We believe this was a reasonable play call by the University, especially considering the abrupt nature of the transition to online learning. But, as the virus has raided our public health, many of our personal lives and forced Auburn to operate almost entirely virtually, the University left the alternative grading system after the spring semester.
This stubbornness comes at the same time that nearby schools such as the University of Alabama and University of Alabama at Birmingham have continued to offer pass or fail grading as an option for all courses and have announced that it will continue at least through the fall semester.
Once again, it’s sad to say such a decorated and respected university as Auburn has to follow in the footsteps of Alabama, but it must be said.
However, we would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to thank and show a sign of appreciation to the vast majority of faculty and professors at Auburn who, at least in our experiences, have been more than accommodating to students during an extremely uncertain and difficult time.
That being said, Auburn should return to a grading method that has been shown to be quite effective at increasing equity.
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