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Professor made ‘stress reduction’ syllabus, but pulls it after being stressed from backlash

(Photo via University of Georgia)

College campuses are breeding grounds for ultra-competitive stressed out students who are trying to ace their exams or finish that term paper before the deadline. However, when one professor at the University of Georgia implemented a “stress reduction policy” in his classroom syllabus, the national backlash caused him just enough stress to pull the language.

According to Campus Reform, Richard Watson, the professor who teaches “Data Management” and “Energy Informatics,” introduced the policy because “emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved.” One of the biggest takeaways is that students who felt “unduly stressed” by a grade could email their professor without explanation “indicating what grade [they] think is appropriate, and it will be so changed.”

Through this policy, Watson planned to make all tests and exams open-book and open-note, even allowing students to use their laptops, to assess low-level mastery of the material.

He even offered a solution for those stressed out working in group settings. “If in a group meeting, you feel stressed by your group’s dynamics, you should leave the meeting immediately and need offer no explanation to the group members. Furthermore, you can request to discontinue all further group work and your grade will be based totally on non-group work.”

In response to a media inquiry, Greg Trevor, executive director of media communications at UGA, said the language had been taken out of the syllabus, writing, “The professor has removed this language from the syllabus. In addition, the University of Georgia applies very high standards in its curricular delivery, including a university-wide policy that mandates all faculty employ a grading system based on transparent and pre-defined coursework.”

Watson wasn’t looking to intentionally harm anyone when drafting his syllabus, but anyone would know that that’s not how the real world works. College is where students learn new ways to deal with stress and challenges facing them. Giving them a pass with a “stress reduction policy” may not fail them during that semester, but it fails them in life when the rubber meets the road.


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