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Extensions, compassionate grading at Laurentian after cyber attack

University senate members hear that online students went two weeks without access to their instructors, and even on-campus students are severely impacted
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The Parker Building at Laurentian University.

Assignment and coursework period extensions, changes to some exam dates and compassionate grading are among the measures brought in by Laurentian University in light of the cyber attack that has thrown the Sudbury institution’s winter term into chaos.

These decisions were made at a special March 5 meeting of the university’s senate. 

The full motions passed by Laurentian’s senate, which include more specifics about the measures being taken by LU in light of the cyber attack, have now been published on the university’s website.

While some progress has been made in restoring Laurentian’s IT systems since the cyber incident began on Feb. 18, members of the governing body shared during the meeting how their students have been impacted.

Provost Brenda Brouwer said those studying online or remotely went for two weeks without access to their course materials and instructors. 

Those who take in-person classes were still able to receive instruction following Laurentian’s reading week last month, she said.

However, several senate members pointed out that all students, even those who study on campus, have been severely impacted by the fallout of the cyber attack.

Lynne Gouliquer said some of her students haven’t been able to access their online textbooks, and are also impacted by the lack of wifi on Laurentian’s campus.

She’s heard complaints that the temporary wifi spots in residence are “spotty themselves, and they can’t do their work.”

One of the motions brought forward at the senate meeting would extend the coursework period for online and remote students, and push exams for these students into the last week of the exam period. 

Changes may also be made for hybrid courses or on-campus courses where there is a heavy reliance on specialized instructional software, although decisions have yet to be made in these cases.

In a hours-long debate, several amendments were brought forward, but eventually defeated, which would have made this coursework period extension universal for all Laurentian students.

Senior administrators at Laurentian, however, said making the change universal would have pushed the end of the exam period into May, something that’s problematic for many students in terms of housing costs and summer jobs.

During a town hall meeting on the cyber attack last week, many students spoke out against the idea of the term being extended for these reasons.

Changing the entire exam schedule would also have been challenging, as the server LU uses to do this is not working, and it’s not something that could be done by hand, said Laurentian registrar Serge Demers.

While there will be no formal semester extensions for most students, Laurentian senate members did vote during their meeting for several other provisions in light of the situation.

Students are getting extensions on their assignment due dates, and instructors are now permitted to give tests on the last week of classes, as well as request that final assignments be allowed to be handed in during the first week of examinations.

All students are also able to access compassionate grading, which would allow them to either accept the assigned grade, withdraw from the course or choose a pass or fail grade. The final date to withdraw from a course without academic penalty has also been extended.

The provisions related to assignment extensions was originally only supposed to apply to online, remote and hybrid students and compassionate grading to online and remote students, but senate members voted to have them apply to all students. 

Heidi Ulrichsen is Sudbury.com’s assistant editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.


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