Press Release: BIPOC hidden figures at Western

Highlighting Elizabeth Braatz, the student behind the Satisfactory/No Credit Academic Policy

Makana Waikiki |‌ IFC Chair

April 24, 2021

Monmouth, OR- Black, Indigenous and Students of Color at Western Oregon University are consistently not given credit on the momentous changes to our campus policies that they led. Not only are they not mentioned in the publication of these changes, but their white counterparts are specifically congratulated for their hard work in creating that change. Often, when students of color speak up and claim the work that they did, they are told that it was a group effort and they are “hogging” the credit. Although there are many examples of this that occurred over the course of the last school year, there is one that cannot be ignored anymore. With the university beginning conversations surrounding the approval or extension of these changes, these incredible students need to be seen. The Satisfactory/No Credit grading option that was offered as an option this year was proposed and passed by Elizabeth Braatz through the faculty senate. 

Elizabeth Braatz is a Black, Hispanic, Native American, LGBTQ+ student here at WOU, Elizabeth also has an auditory processing disorder she was diagnosed with at seven years old. Throughout her time at this university, she has always advocated for students from all different backgrounds to ensure that they are given every opportunity to succeed here at WOU. As a Resident Assistant this year and an active student leader, she saw and heard the concerns and fears of her peers surrounding their success in classes during the pandemic. With so many students forced to take on extra jobs, assist their family and take on increased responsibility and pressure, their academics were the last thing on their minds. Elizabeth knew that if the grading policy remained the standard A through F, that the students here at WOU would suffer. She immediately began collecting statistics, drafting the policy and presenting it to the faculty senate. With the help of Faculty Senate President Leigh Graziano and ASWOU Senate President Liz Marquez Gutierrez, she was able to pass the Satisfactory/No Credit grading option policy for the 2020-21 academic year.

As Elizabeth Braatz has worked closely with the Faculty Senate President Leigh Graziano, we were able to get a quote from the Senate President herself. This is what she has to say regarding Elizabeth’s efforts. “Although it wasn’t mentioned in the Faculty Senate presentation on April 13, the proposal to revise our permanent S/NC policy is indebted to the activism of Elizabeth Braatz. It was Elizabeth’s presentation at the Faculty Senate in fall 2020 that prompted the Faculty Senate to vote to adopt this emergency grade mode again for the rest of the academic year. Learning from this moment, the Registrar brought forward a proposal to revise our permanent S/NC policy so that it is more useful for students and can be another vehicle of student success and retention. But, I think we are in this moment because of Elizabeth’s work, and it’s wonderful to see our policies being revised because of student-led activism.”

This policy allows students to opt in and use the Satisfactory/No Credit option for the courses that they are taking. Students have from the start of the term to the end of the seventh week to opt in. The academic policy is not functional for all programs, majors or courses. It is available based upon the various departments, and their decisions on whether or not they want to provide this option within their department. It is important that students seek advising from their academic advisors to find out if their courses allow for this academic policy, as well as if it is in their best interest to use this option. It is simply an opportunity for students to do what is best for them as we continue navigating through a difficult and challenging time in history.

We were able to speak with Elizabeth Braatz regarding her experience and thoughts about the Satisfactory/No Credit option. She said, “For awhile, I really did not mind being a hidden figure in a sense because ultimately, all I wanted to ensure was that students were given the opportunity to succeed during an extremely difficult and challenging time in our history. I was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder when I was seven years old, so I am able to understand the stress and difficulty in trying to adapt to new concepts, teaching styles, methods and curriculum. I have worked so hard to be where I am today, and I no longer wanted to go unheard or unseen. It is important for me to have my work be acknowledged, and to no longer be a hidden figure. It is important for credit to go to where credit is deserved.”

This incredible student leader deserves to have their hard work and commitment to student success recognized and appreciated. Without their courage and resilience the support we as students need to succeed here at WOU would not be possible. They are also just one of the hundreds of amazing and influential BIPOC students that have chosen WOU as their home and are fighting for change and inclusion. Our administration is leading us to believe that they are creating these changes, when it is the BIPOC students who pay to be here that are fighting for students and their success.

For more information contact Elizabeth Braatz at ebraatz17@mail.wou.edu and Leigh Graziano  at grazianol@mail.wou.edu.

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