This week is the Theta Alpha chapter of Delta Sigma Theta’s annual May Week and with it they have taken the opportunity to advocate on the behalf of the mental and physical health of Northwestern’s Black students. Below is their letter to Morty, asking him to recognize and take action to better the university’s policies toward how mental health can affect academic life. Put simply, no Northwestern student should be academically punished for their mental illness.
Dear President Schapiro,
We, as students concerned about mental health policy, would like to recommend that the administration of Northwestern University alter our retroactive grade change/withdrawal policy to consider more intently the plight of students who are suffering from mental illnesses, battling with their mental health, or struggling due to unique traumas.
There is currently no policy in place at Northwestern that allows for students who have suffered from mental health issues or other unique traumas to have their grades retroactively dropped from a quarter in which their issues severely affected their academic performance.
The lack of support on an administrative level for these students is problematic, as it does not allow for the rectifying of grades that do not truly reflect to the abilities and merits of these students, as their performances were marred by external issues.
Currently, some of the policies in place at other institutions of higher education offer better support for students and the opportunity for retroactive withdrawal and/or grade change. A few examples are:
Earlier this year, Illinois legislators introduced a bipartisan bill into the U.S. Senate to provide grants for mental health services on college campuses nationwide. Mental health is being talked about at a national-scale. The country is becoming more accepting and supportive of the struggles that come along with having mental health issues, and Northwestern should take notice and make strides to become more accommodating for its students affected by this issue.
Northwestern had 137 total medical leaves during the 2014-15 school year, more than 90 percent mental health related. However, not all students who are suffering mentally take leaves of absence from school, which could severely impact their academic record. Getting a new retroactive grade policy could benefit these students and help alleviate some of the burdens that come with not being in healthy mental and academic spaces.
We thank you for reviewing our recommendation. It is our hope that all NU students graduate with a transcript that is reflective of the effort they put into their school work despite their battles with mental health.
Sincerely, Northwestern University Students