International students push for greater accommodations during online learning

The UCLA administration has been providing resources to international students while they are studying in different time zones, but some international students are pushing for more academic accommodations. (Lauren Man/Assistant Photo editor)

By Saumya Gupta

November 14, 2020 at 12:18 p.m.

The COVID-19 pandemic and UCLA’s subsequent shift to remote learning has affected how some international students have approached their education. In light of International Education Week 2020, here are four stories that highlight some of the challenges international students have had to deal with during fall quarter.

UCLA has given international students resources during remote learning, but some international students said they would benefit from additional academic accommodations.

The Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars has been providing workshops to allow international students to connect to each other and has also been collaborating with Counseling and Psychological Services to offer mental health resources to international students, said UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk in an emailed statement.

UCLA also updated the course catalog on MyUCLA to denote whether courses were offered synchronously or asynchronously to help students choose the class the best fits their needs, Kisliuk said.

Adnan Shabib, a second-year mathematics of computation student living in Jordan, said several of his friends found the services to be helpful. Shabib, who is also the international student ambassador for Jordan, said he used the MyUCLA feature to help him plan classes that had recorded lectures.

However, Bakur Madini, a second-year physics and pre-economics student currently living in Saudi Arabia and the Undergraduate Students Association Council international student representative, said the services UCLA currently provides are not a substitution for academic accommodations. The administration is doing a good job accommodating students nonacademically, but it needs to accommodate the academic aspect too, he said.

“Instead of trying to … react to the stress students (are) having from exams at 4 a.m., just don’t have an exam at 4 a.m.,” Madini said.

Kisliuk added in the statement that the Dashew Center has also been advocating for professors to teach asynchronous and recorded classes wherever possible. The Dashew Center’s director is also a standing guest on the UCLA Academic Senate’s Committee on International Education to allow them to advocate for international students, he said in the statement.

Ellen Tsai, a second-year computational and systems biology student who is living in Taiwan, said some professors do not provide accommodations. Tsai, who is also the international student ambassador for Taiwan, said there is a student advocacy committee that has been working with different departments to ensure they are providing accommodations for international students.

Mariam Mahmoud, a third-year public affairs and economics student who is on the committee, said it is advocating for more time-zone-friendly classes.

Mahmoud, who is also the international student ambassador for Egypt, said her fall quarter has been better than her spring quarter. But, she added, this isn’t the case for everybody. Some students have to stay awake all night in order to attend their classes based on Pacific Standard Time, she said.

Some students have to reach out to professors to get accommodations, Madini added.

“Students should be focusing on achieving academically and focusing on their work instead of trying to explain why … it is a bad idea to have classes or exams at 4 a.m,” Madini said. “That should be the least of their worries.”

Tsai said her fall quarter has been manageable because most of her classes are recorded and her professors have scheduled flexible exam and discussion times.

Tsai added that the Dashew Center has hosted events to try to engage students and the Undergraduate Writing Center has also provided times for her to get assistance on her papers that work in her time zone.

Madini said he is working and planning on pushing for more permanent accommodations. However, they are still trying to figure out how this can be done in the most effective way, he added.

“UCLA and the administration should really step up and have an enforceable policy when it comes to academic accommodations,” Madini said.

Read more stories like this: