When US college student, Saige Kratenstein, emailed her professor requesting an assignment extension, after her father’s death due to COVID-19 complications, the reply she received was one she least expected. According to her tweet that went viral this week, Kratenstein’s teacher told her to, "try to get it done in time,” and “try to make it to the ZOOM anyway”.
The tweet has sparked a conversation about which demands are reasonable to place on students during such a time.
According to her Twitter bio, Kratenstein is a student at the University of Maryland. On April 29, she tweeted an email she had apparently got from her finance professor last Thursday.
Tagging the university, @saigedara posted: “@UofMaryland I simply asked my prof for a few days extension on a project because MY DAD died as a result of covid19 and THIS is the response I get. DO. BETTER”
The tweet shows an email in which, the professor replied that it would be "better" for her to complete the assignment on time as she likes to be "consistent with students because there are many who are having difficult times".
In a follow-up tweet, Kratenstein shared another email in which the professor told Kratenstein that keeping up with the work "could take your mind off things”.
@saigedara tweeted: “Would also like to mention that on the day of my dad’s FUNERAL she said I should try to make it to the ZOOM anyway.”
Many people replied to Kratenstein’s tweet offering their sympathies and saying that they found the teacher’s response extremely insensitive
@lidianams tweeted: “I am so sorry for your loss! And I am also really sorry that you need to deal with a professor like this in such a difficult moment. Remember that no matter what this person says, you are doing your best and you should put your well-being in first place now...”
Tweep @mehnazzanhem said she had faced a similar issue: “@UofMaryland I had a similar issue where I submitted something about 8 hours late due to covid, my emails are currently being ignored. UMD needs to tell their professors to stop being so cold hearted.”
She added: “I only submitted 8 hours late because it’s Ramadan, so, I now do my work at night and sleep during the day after sunrise/our meal. He used my sleeping during the day (mind you, the assignment wasn’t even due during the time I was asleep) as his justification for ignoring my email.”
Tweep @morville shared a response from an expert: “In case @UofMaryland fails to see the wrongness of your professor's behaviour, here's a response from an expert in dealing with grief and trauma.”
He quoted @dr_cacciatore who tweeted: “I can tell you that I would never expect an assignment to be due even outside the pandemic if a student’s father just died yesterday. Additionally the prof doesn’t seem to even offer any compassion at all. Intellect does not equal emotional intelligence.”
According to an article on nbcnews.com, Krastenstein said: "I didn't bother to continue fighting it. I guess she, in her mind, felt like everyone was going through a hard time, as she said, but I had just lost my dad. I was definitely kind of shocked and a little taken back by it."
The report said that Kratenstein's father, Alan, died on April 13 at 63 years old. The college student said she hadn't been able to see her father since he went to the hospital on March 29.
Kratenstein, 20, said she has asked other professors for similar extensions and that they had been "much more understanding,” reported the article.
She said: "They told me to focus on my family and were very considerate and understanding. She was the only one I didn't receive a compassionate response from."
The viral tweets also caught the attention of the administration at the University of Maryland who Kratenstein says is now working with her on academic accommodations. The finance course was a required course for her marketing major.
"They've checked in on me and they're getting it all handled," Kratenstein said. "My advisors have been amazing and I'm grateful for their help."
A University of Maryland spokesperson confirmed that the school has "offered academic accommodations," including granting the extension Kratenstein asked for, "as well as support services for our student’s mental and emotional health."